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11/18/2019
Initiative

One response to a state budget deficit is a citizen-driven ballot measure.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy and the state Legislature spent the last session and followup special sessions grappling with Alaska’s deficit.

Severe cuts to the Alaska Marine Highway System and the University of Alaska created hardship in the lives of Alaskans. It’s anticipated that further budget tightening will take place in the upcoming session.

Alaskans are responding. Not only is a gubernatorial recall in play, but an oil tax reform initiative is.

Supporters of the Fair Share Act are beginning to collect signatures to put the initiative on the ballot. They must collect a minimum of 28,501 signatures.

The measure seeks to increase taxes on oil companies operating at the three largest oilfields in Alaska — Prudhoe Bay, Alpine, and Kuparuk River.

It comes in response to Alaskans’ comments at public hearings in regard to the state’s financial situation. Speaker after speaker suggested that oil companies contribute greater amounts to the state’s coffers.

Opponents of the initiative fear increasing taxes to the oil companies will discourage industry investment in Alaska. Taxes typically have that effect.

As Alaskans increasingly express frustration with the state’s financial situation and elected leaders’ response to it, initiatives are likely.

Making law by initiative is perilous. It can impose rules stemming from emotion, not the cold, hard facts.

That’s not to say that the oil companies aren’t integral to Alaska’s finances. They are. But the balance is the issue.

The state Legislature is elected to determine what that is.