Moses' vote switch raises suspicions

Posted: Thursday, May 02, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- Rep. Carl Moses of Unalaska has raised suspicions for switching sides on a proposal to offer the oil industry $760 million in tax breaks for a natural gas pipeline the day before receiving $12 million for harbor projects in his district.

Moses said the two are not connected, but other lawmakers question his motives.

''You guys are trying to make something out of nothing,'' the Democrat said, referring to the media. He said he requested funding for the four port improvements two weeks ago.

Eldon Mulder, the House Finance Committee co-chairman, said no favors were traded in the port and harbor spending bill. Port and harbor requests by members of the House are initially included in bills before the Finance Committee, including Moses', said Mulder, R-Anchorage.

But Rep. Jim Whitaker, R-Fairbanks, a critic of the pipeline tax break, said he wasn't happy about Moses' change of heart on his amendment to require the oil industry to eventually enter negotiations on repayment. ''Look at the evidence and come to your own conclusion,'' he said.

Moses had originally voted in favor of the amendment.

The list of proposed port projects came out of Mulder's office Monday. The quasi-public document was distributed to Republican House members, but not as part of a bill.

Four hours later in the House Finance Committee, Mulder reopened deliberations on tax incentives designed to stimulate construction of a natural gas pipeline to the Lower 48.

Without Whitaker's amendment, the bill would simply exempt a natural gas pipeline from all property taxes during construction and the first two years of operation.

On Monday, Moses changed his vote and therefore killed the Whitaker amendment. The 72-year-old Moses said he had been ''half asleep'' during the original vote and made a mistake.

Then, on Tuesday, a measure was introduced that authorizes $12 million in bond funding for four small boat harbors in Moses' district. The only other harbor project added under the bill was $3 million in bonds for the Port of Anchorage expansion project.

Nome, Valdez and Anchorage would also get money for port construction.

Anchorage Democratic Rep. Eric Croft agreed with Whitaker that the situation appears questionable. ''It looks to me like some deal was struck that I am not aware of,'' said Croft.

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The gas pipeline incentive measure is House Bill 519.

The harbor funding measure is House Bill 528.



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