Hello again from the capital. This week we passed the mid-point for this year’s legislative session, so we’re on the downhill slide for the end of the session – with a lot of work yet to be done.
Friday was another good day for my office. House Bill 216 passed the House unanimously. It will greatly improve understanding of the regulation process for the public as well as legislators. All departments will be required to write a brief descriptive summary, in easy to understand English, of every new regulation and change in regulations that is published for public comment.
My Alaska Transportation Infrastructure Fund bill (ATIF) is on the move again, having passed House Finance on Friday. This will allow the voters to decide, in the next general election, whether they want a dedicated transportation fund.
The Senate has been putting the final touches on the Capital Budget requests that will fund many worthwhile and needed projects in our communities. The House will soon get the Senate’s version back for our shot at the final Capital Budget. At the same time, House finance subcommittees have been closing out Operating Budgets for individual departments, so that they can all be wrapped into the overall 2013 Operating Budget for the state. Public testimony on the Operating Budget will be taken from Sitka, Wrangell and Petersburg on Wednesday, March 7 from 3:00 – 4:00 pm. You can call in from your LIO.
Besides Education Funding, the other big issue being debated is declining oil production and how to encourage more petroleum production in Alaska. This is vitally important to those of us living in Southeast Alaska because 90% of the funding that pays for operational and capital costs in this state comes from the oil and gas that is produced and sold to other states and countries.
Oil and gas revenues come to the state in the form of fees, royalties and taxes. Ever since the Trans-Alaska Pipeline (TAPS) was built, and oil started flowing to Valdez, Alaska has benefited through the thousands of jobs and billions in revenues that have come from the amazing bounty of this resource. And because almost all petroleum industry jobs are high paying jobs, increasing development is about far more than just bringing in tax revenues to the state’s coffers.
I believe that we simply can’t ignore what the oil companies are telling us about the competitiveness of exploration and development in Alaska, relative to focusing their efforts elsewhere. How long can we continue to argue with oil companies about the interpretation of what the words “meaningful change to our tax regime” mean as we watch them “vote with their feet” – increasing exploration and production in almost every other petroleum rich area in the world other than Alaska?
If we want to continue receiving oil revenues to support our schools, roads, public protection, and every other expense in this state, then I think we need to do a better job of encouraging them to do business in Alaska. Otherwise, it won’t matter how high our tax rate is, we could end up generating little in tax revenue. 100% of nothing will always be nothing.
Thank you for all your emails and letters regarding some of the legislation under consideration. I encourage you to keep up with bills that interest you by going online to BASIS first, to check the status of current legislation. You can see how your favorite bills are progressing, and even how legislators voted.
I’ll talk to you again next week from Peggy’s Corner of the House.