Local leaders criticize proposed tax increase on oil industry

  • Amanda Bohman, abohman@newsminer.com
  • Oct 24, 2020 Updated Oct 24, 2020

Local Mayors Jim Matherly, Bryce Ward and Mike Welch have come out against Ballot Measure 1, known as the Fair Share Act, which would increase oil and gas production taxes from a minimum of 0%-4% to 10% for the state’s three largest oil fields on the North Slope.

Alaska voters will approve or reject the ballot question on Nov. 3. 

The mayors are concerned about a negative impact on the local economy, according to a news release provided by Genevieve Bell, vice president at Flowline Alaska, based in Fairbanks.

Bell is active with the group OneALASKA, which is fighting the proposed tax increase. The group’s top three contributors are ConocoPhillips Alaska, BP Alaska and Hilcorp.

The mayors of the city of Fairbanks, the Fairbanks North Star Borough and the city of North Pole confirmed their opposition to the ballot measure via text message Friday, emphasizing that this is their personal opinions.

The mayors each had a prepared statement in the news release provided by Bell.

Ward, who is chairman of the borough Economic Development Commission, is concerned about the timing for a “massive tax increase.” The economy is already stalled and suffering due to COVID-19, he said.

“We desperately need more investment in our state, not less,” he said in the prepared statement. “Ballot Measure 1 will make an already grim situation worse.”

Matherly agreed, adding that local jobs would be lost.

“Ballot Measure 1 would deliver a gut punch to Fairbanks when we’re already on our economic knees,” according to his prepared statement.

Welch said that overtaxing the oil industry cost North Pole dearly after the Flint Hills Resources refinery closed.

“We have experienced firsthand the consequences of pushing industry too far,” he said in the news release. “Overtaxing the industry cost North Pole 175 good-paying jobs when the refinery closed six years ago. We lost more than $10 million in payroll overnight.”

A group called Vote Yes for Alaska’s Fair Share, led by Robin Brena, an Anchorage attorney, and Democratic state lawmakers, is supporting the ballot measure.

The Alaska Department of Revenue estimated that if oil production is stable, at $45 a barrel, annual oil production taxes would triple from $191 million to $564 million if Ballot Measure 1 is approved, Alaska Public Media reported.

Contact staff writer Amanda Bohman at 459-7545. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMborough.