Whenever the oil industry faces new taxes, they unleash their spin doctors to lose us in the regulatory weeds or they find a cadre of resident apologists to convince us that the industry needs extraordinary privileges and protections. Fortunately, there are only five straightforward facts we must weigh before voting.
Oil corporations are some of the most profitable ventures in the world, U.S. and Alaska.
Their profitability is largely dependent on existing corporate welfare — federal and state subsidies.
The North Slope is a high-cost region but is still the greatest profit center in Alaska.
Our owner state has settled for significantly lower returns than other crude oil owners.
The industry enjoys lopsided oil credits — where we owe them more than they owe us.
So, let us contrast the five facts above with our large and unresolved state fiscal crisis — when further cuts even to the most basic services will not come close to eliminating the deficit.
Our choice is simple: Share the inevitable pain to run the state, or, let an already privileged industry dodge the tax burden while we take up their slack.
Lastly, in response to the tactic of stoking fears about outside interests (now a fad), i.e., those who will ruin our economy, impose alien interests and maybe even take away our first born, the last time I checked Alaskans were not running the corporate head-sheds of British Petroleum, ExxonMobil or Conoco Phillips.
The epitome of outside intervention mucking up the state is an industry that profits from the riches of the owner state (as former Gov. Wally Hickel would say) while consistently dodging their fair share of future tax burdens. Ironically, the industry is being abetted by a few Alaska collaborators — who are hopefully just some wrongheaded neighbors who have every right to their First Amendment privileges.
I am betting the oil industry can afford to pay a greater share, and I will be voting for Ballot Measure 1 in November.
• Joe Mehrkens is a retired forest economist and resident of Petersburg and Juneau.
• By Joe Mehrkens