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Friday, January 28, 2022

Step One: Show Up in November


In the recent Alaska primary election, there was a 15 percent turnout — a record low. Alaskans feel their voices aren’t heard. Many have lost hope. It’s easy to see why.

We have a Senate President who works for ConocoPhillips and who, along with his other oil company buddies in the Legislature is refusing to fix our oil tax structure that has us paying out $700 million more in oil-tax credits than we get in production taxes. Efforts to fix our fiscal situation were violently opposed by every special interest group out there.

Big mines in Alaska pay a measly tax. Yet the big Outside mining companies would have you believe we were trying to shut down the industry by proposing a total of $6 million in increased mining taxes.

It costs the state millions more to run our commercial fishing department than we get in fishing taxes, yet you would have thought we were banning fishing after the Seattle fishing fleet opposed a small increase in our fishing tax. At least fish are renewable if we do it right. Mining? When did you ever hear about a copper or gold farm?

Of course there’s the oil industry — which promised us loads of new oil, new jobs, new revenue and more money for the Permanent Fund if we just gave them some of the lowest oil taxes in the world. We did that, and now instead of a promised 1 million barrels by 2025 we are looking at less than 300,000 barrels per day.

You could watch them daily on “Gavel to Gavel” bemoaning further oil production cuts if we didn’t let them keep all the giveaways they’ve accumulated in recent years.

With a conservative U.S. Supreme Court ruling 5-4 a few years ago that corporations were essentially people and thus had free speech rights and therefore could spend whatever they wanted to influence elections, legislators are cowed into giving big, wealthy corporations whatever they want, lest those big corporations decide to exercise a few million dollars of their free speech against them in their next election.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, is experiencing that now. An ardent supporter of getting a fair share for our oil and for protecting the PFD, he is now being targeted by his opponent and the billionaire Outside Koch Brothers — who are claiming he is responsible for “expanding ‘Obamacare'” because he, along with 65 percent of Alaskans, supports accepting back $150 million per year in our federal tax dollars to insure 40,000 Alaskans have health insurance and we create 4,000 jobs.

What do the Koch Brothers and his opponent care about health care in Alaska? They don’t. They just want your tax dollars to go for tax breaks for them and their rich buddies. In fact, a Koch Brothers organization, “Americans for Prosperity,” testified this past year they thought we should actually lower oil taxes in Alaska. I used to joke about what they lobby for — us paying them to take our resource. I’m not laughing.

So where does that leave the average Alaskan family? About $4,400 poorer. It was actually politically easier to take $1,100 from the PFDs of every child, senior, veteran and working mother than it was to take on the Koch Brothers or fix our broken oil tax structure. Interestingly, the PFD cut amounts to a savings of $700 million — exactly the amount we’re turning over to the oil companies. You can rest easier knowing some oil executive in Texas will be able to buy a new Bentley with what was your child’s college savings.

I am continually frustrated when I hear smart, compassionate people say, well, I’m happy to give up my PFD to pay for government services. Well so am I — but only after we fix our broken oil tax structure. And our broken mining tax structure. And after we have those who can afford it the easiest pay their share before taking it from infants, seniors and single moms.

Taking the PFD is the most regressive way to solve our budget problem. And for those who say you can’t possibly fix our budget situation without using the Permanent Fund, answer me this: how does every single other state in the nation balance their budget when they don’t have a Permanent Fund?

So you have a choice this coming election: keep voting for the candidates supported by the big corporations — who want nothing more than to grab your PFD to pay for more tax breaks, or try something a little different. Republicans have been in complete power of the state House for decades — and of the Senate for decades save a six-year period when we had a bipartisan Senate. Incidentally, those six years happen to be the years the Legislature actually fixed our oil tax structure and saved $16 billion — the savings we are living on now.

The choice is yours Alaskans, but you have to show up.



One Response to “Step One: Show Up in November”
  1. Pancho says:

    Great analysis. I hope it does some good. If anything, the narrow loss of the SB21 Repeal ballot initiative vote proved that “you can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time.”

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