As a longtime Fairbanks resident, I’ve worked my entire career to help provide jobs to Alaskans. The essential needs of Alaska’s working families all across this vast and beautiful state depend on the responsible development of our natural resources. For us, environmentally responsible resource development means a strong economy and the opportunity to improve our schools and other public services. It means good-paying jobs for Fairbanks workers and billions of dollars in revenue for the state of Alaska.
Despite a historic downturn in 2016, over the past few years, investment and exploration on Alaska’s North Slope was booming. Companies spent billions on innovative new projects, and the future looked bright. Ballot Measure 1, however, threatens to take all of that away. The massive increase on oil company taxes it is calling for – up to 300% – will no doubt take as way the precious dollars we need these companies to be investing. It is an absolute recipe for disaster.
The unprecedented events of 2020 are nothing anyone could have anticipated. Our state was already hanging in the balance when a global pandemic and historic oil price lows hit us while we were down; more than 40,000 jobs in Alaska have been lost since last year due to these events. But we can’t worry about things we can’t control. Alaskans are a tough bunch. We know how to weather tough times, and if we stay the course, we will weather this storm as well. But we certainly shouldn’t make things worse by passing Ballot Measure 1.
This year, our state population dropped for the third year in a row. Alaskans whose families have been here for generations are finding that they can no longer support their own families here. We need a healthy, reliable partnership with the oil and gas industry – it is our state’s largest economic driver and has been for decades. A full quarter of Alaska’s jobs are directly tied to the oil and gas industry, equating to 77,600 Alaska jobs and over $4.7 billion in Alaska wages. It funds critical public services, the Permanent Fund Dividend, and the state’s infrastructure. In already tough times, it makes zero sense to make things harder for Alaskans.
The events of 2020 will soon pass, and we need to be ready to spring back into action. Rigs on the North Slope that have been sitting idle these past few months are ready to get going. Projects that have been in the planning stages are going to become a reality. But only if we can be the kind of business partner that encourages investment, not sends it out of state. To protect Alaska’s families, jobs, and economy, we all need to vote no on 1, and restore our state to the thriving home we know it can be again.
Jim Plaquet is a 46 year member of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 302