Let's hope the Legislature keeps moving forward

Posted: Sunday, November 18, 2007

We are pleased to see that our state lawmakers were able to work together this week to pass new oil tax legislation.

"The internal working dynamics are easier, a little more pleasant," Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, told the Associated Press of the atmosphere in the Senate during the special session. "Everybody recognizes there are diverse philosophical opinions.

"We are forced to work toward the middle for a consensus. That's why you saw a movement from the 22.5 and 25 on the base rate."

We hope this spirit of cooperation and compromise will carry forward into next January, when the Legislature will convene for its regular session. There still are big issues affecting Alaska the state retirement system and funding for education, to name just two in need of long-term solutions.

We hope the legislation passed on Friday, dubbed Alaska's Clear and Equitable Share by Gov. Sarah Palin, is indeed Alaska's fair share of the wealth generated by our natural resources. Depending on market prices, the new tax laws are projected to bring an additional $1.5 billion into state coffers each year. We hope this money is allocated and spent responsibly, and results in a tangible improvement in the quality of life for Alaskans. We need better roads, stronger schools and adequate public services, not more bureaucracy.

We hope the oil industry finds in this legislation adequate incentives to continue to invest and explore in Alaska, and to continue responsible development of our resources.

At the same time, we hope oil companies are held accountable for their actions, and Alaskans aren't asked to foot the bill for their negligence.

Above all else, we hope all parties feel this bill is free of the shadow of corruption which tainted the oil tax legislation passed under the previous administration.

Only time will tell whether this new legislation will work as envisioned, or will serve to chill the industry on further investment in the state.

"The governor and her administration have crafted a bill and pushed it through the Legislature that will either tap the producers for another $1.5 billion without harm, or end up hurting our economy by driving away oil industry investment," House Speaker John Harris, R-Valdez, said.

"We will need billions of dollars of investment to keep our production up, so I am hopeful the governor has not made a serious mistake with this legislation," he said. "But we won't really know for sure for a couple of years."

We share that hope that this bill has been crafted in such a way to carry the state forward to a brighter future.

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