As Oil Tax Referendum Nears, Dems Try Making Bet With Governor

A pair of Anchorage Democrats are calling on Gov. Sean Parnell to pass legislation serving as a guarantee that the new oil tax system will lead to more production on the North Slope.

State Sens. Hollis French and Bill Wielechowski announced on Tuesday that they want Parnell to call a special session and pass a bill that would add a sunset to the new tax system, which caps oil taxes at 35 percent.

Using a 55-gallon Citgo drum and a one-dollar bill as props, French explained that the idea was to have the state go back to the old system should Parnell’s new tax law not result in at least one more 42-gallon barrel of production — or one more dollar of revenue — than is currently forecast for the year 2019.

FRENCH: So, we’re here today to present a challenge to the governor – a very simple challenge. The challenge boils down to two readily available ideas that Alaskans can understand: a barrel, a barrel of oil, and a dollar, a dollar of revenue.

French and Wielechowski said they would withdraw their support for an August ballot referendum to repeal that same law, were Parnell to support their idea.

That’s not going to happen. Shortly after the press conference, House Speaker Mike Chenault issued a statement calling the proposal “political theater” and “sour grapes” from the Legislature’s Democratic Minority. The Vote No on One campaign, an industry group that wants to keep the new tax law in place, also characterized the proposal as a stunt. The governor’s office did not return a request for comment.

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