Alaskans deserve an atmosphere of trust in government. But broken promises, averted eyes
from ethical lapses, booted-out conscientious state employees, and things like the governor's
jet are the much-ballyhooed issues that illustrate the disconnect between established
politicians and the rest of us.
Hopefully though, as we consider the most important economic issues facing Alaska in
decades, may these aforementioned reminders of things amiss share ink so we can debate
additional issues that are also of utmost importance. As obstinate as the jet purchase is, oil
taxes and secret gasline deals must be a focus now.
Under way in Juneau are long overdue oil tax revisions. Legislators are analyzing the
governor's proposal to amend ELF and are dealing with multinational corporations on tax
packages that were put together behind closed doors. We're warned this may be a long,
We're told the proposals involve complex new terms, credits, and formulas, and as the former
chairman of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, I know these issues can be
difficult to keep up with, considering the industry's areas of expertise and public-relations
Industry negotiators are some of the sharpest professionals on earth, with decades of
experience dedicated to their company's bottom line. Our negotiators are citizen legislators or
political appointees who sometimes are dependent on industry for their next job.
It may look like we're outgunned at the table, but thankfully we can compete because we've
got supremely powerful ammunition. It's called the Alaska Constitution, and it provides our
strength as we deal with corporations whose ultimate goal is to make themselves maximum
profit and leave as little behind.
I respect industry's contributions to our economy as it pumps our oil, gets it to market and
makes mind-boggling profit off our resources. I personally appreciate the blue-collar job
opportunities industry provides. I am, in fact, married to a Slope worker, so I'm not out to
bash industry, nor do I expect officials to use a hammer in negotiations. But I do expect us to
stop acting weak and confused and just do the right thing for Alaskans, via our Constitution.
Here's what the Constitution says: Negotiate for the maximum benefit of all Alaskans. Period.
That must be the objective. It really is that straightforward.
Officials can make this easier on themselves by committing to not let politics, cronyism or
campaign cash get in the way of this objective. I'd remind officials if they find themselves
struggling or confused, please simply reflect on the guidance provided by Alaska's founders.
Remember one's oath of office where one is sworn to defend the unequivocal terms mandating
development and conservation of natural resources for the maximum benefit of all Alaskans.
Not outside interests, but Alaska's interests.
I implore officials to negotiate from our position of strength. As former governor Walter Hickel
wrote, “Legislators should simply hold up a copy of Article VIII and say, ‘I swore to uphold this
document, I'll keep my promise'.” Legislators need only defend the public's interest and they'll
inherently do what's right.
It's amazing to consider the perspective our founding fathers had when crafting the
Constitution. An astute Alaskan recently said, “It's almost like they knew to protect something
they didn't even know existed yet.” What they knew to protect may not have been fathomed in
their wildest dreams whilst writing the document, but I believe their concerns are manifesting
today with these negotiations.
Alaskans deserve to be listened to as our resources are on the table. Our message to officials:
use restraint, don't rush decisions that have long-lasting impacts. Don't tie oil taxes to a
gasline contract that isn't even available for scrutiny.
More specifically to the governor: Trust the public with all the information. Don't let companies
hide behind confidentiality, handing them control of our revenue by undefined terms and
undeveloped credits. Don't give retroactive credits to stimulate investment decisions made
years before, as “retroactive incentive” is an oxymoron. Make financial models public.
Simply, let us trust you to uphold your oath to defend our Constitution.