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New Version of HB 247 Will Cost Alaska Hundreds of Millions of Dollars a Year Into the Foreseeable Future

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 6, 2016

Juneau – Today, the Conference Committee created to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of House Bill 247 advanced a new version that continues unsustainable subsidies to the oil and gas industry that will cost Alaska hundreds of millions of dollars a year.  The only member of the Minority on the Conference Committee is Representative Geran Tarr (D-Anchorage). She objected to the new version of HB 247 and voted no on advancing the bill out of the committee.

“The people of Alaska will consider this Special Session a failure if we don’t address this unsustainable credit system for the North Slope, which is one of the most expensive components of the system of subsidizing the oil industry in Alaska.  The Conference Committee version of the bill does not do that, so I was a no vote. I want a strong and vibrant oil and gas industry in Alaska, but paying out more in tax credits than we receive in production taxes is just a bad business deal for the people we are elected to represent,” said Rep. Tarr. “Additionally, the public was left out of the process because the meeting was noticed late Sunday for an 8:00 a.m. Monday meeting.”

HB 247 was originally put forward by Alaska Governor Bill Walker and his version of the bill would have offset Alaska’s fiscal gap by approximately $500 million.  The bill was dramatically changed through the Republican-controlled committee process in the House and Senate to strip away nearly all savings and continue the unsustainable oil industry subsidies.  Eventually, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House and Senate came together to pass a version of HB 247 that would protect Alaska from being overwhelmed by these tax credits, incentives, and subsidies for the oil industry.  However, the Senate Majority promptly gutted that version of the bill in favor of continuing the unsustainable oil tax credit system.  The Republican-controlled HB 247 Conference Committee waited until day 15 of the Special Session to meet and in the span of one meeting that lasted just over an hour, they forwarded a new version of HB 247 largely similar to the Senate version of the bill.

“The subsidies and incentives included in this bill makes it impossible for the Alaska Legislature to pass any version of a fiscal plan that is fair to the people of Alaska,” said Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition Leader Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage).  “Today’s vote showed a lack of leadership by the House and Senate Majority members on the Conference Committee because they missed the opportunity to rollback and moderate these oil industry subsidies, which are threatening to overwhelm our budget, our economy, and potentially our future,”

Alaska’s oil tax credit system has become a huge cost driver and the repurchased part of the credit system is now the third largest state expenditure behind education and the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.  In the next fiscal year, the State is expected to pay out an estimated $825 million in refundable tax credits, while the state is forecasted to only take in $54 million in production taxes.  FY 2017 will be the third year in a row that production tax revenues are less than credit payments.  The provisions included in the current oil and gas tax code, and continued in the version of HB 247 advanced by the Conference Committee, for the State of Alaska to cover a third of oil industry losses increases the state’s fiscal liability to the oil industry to over a billion dollars.

The Conference Committee version of HB 247 is expected to be advanced to the House and Senate Floors later today.   

For more information, please contact Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition Press Secretary Mike Mason at (907) 444-0889.

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