Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce is photographed at the Kenai Peninsula Clarion office in Kenai, Alaska, on Sept. 25, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce is photographed at the Kenai Peninsula Clarion office in Kenai, Alaska, on Sept. 25, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Voices of the Peninsula: Ballot Measure 1 will hurt the Kenai economy; I’m voting ‘no’

This year has been bad for everyone, across the board.

  • Sunday, November 1, 2020 12:06am
  • Opinion

As we count down to Election Day, we are all being overloaded with information about candidates and two alarming ballot measures. I have now come out publicly in opposition to Ballot Measures 1 and 2, believe both are bad for Alaska. I especially want to explain my strong “no” position on Ballot Measure 1.

Alaska’s first major oil discovery was on the Kenai Peninsula many decades ago, and since then, oil has grown to become our state’s largest economic driver. The industry provides many of our highest-paying local jobs, and accounts for 90% of Alaska’s revenue from business.

This year has been bad for everyone, across the board. We have had to work through a global pandemic and a historic downturn in oil prices. Our tourism industry took a beating this summer. And still, with all of the challenges we’ve had to face, Ballot Measure 1 is seeking to raise oil taxes by up to 300%.

For the first time in the history of the mighty Kuparuk, Alpine and Prudhoe Bay fields, there are no drilling rigs running, and ConocoPhillips recently stated that if Ballot Measure 1 passes, it is unlikely drilling will resume in the targeted fields in 2021. That is a sobering thought. A massive tax increase only serves to disincentivize companies from doing business here. Taxes are regressive and depress the economy. Alaska’s economy is already struggling — why would we actively make it worse?

We don’t need to squeeze more taxes out of the private sector in a time where we can’t even manage what we already have. Ballot Measure 1 wants to take money away from private companies that are employing Alaskans in high-paying jobs, and already pay nearly all taxes in Alaska, and put that money in the hands of liberal politicians to spend as they wish. I think Juneau has already proven that is not a good idea. Government must cut expenses, reduce overhead, and start making better long-term decisions, not look for quick fixes, especially when the “fix” will make things worse. We need to work smarter, not harder, to lower costs while delivering essential services.

We all know that our state’s budget is in dire straits, and has been for some time now. We can’t continue on the path that we’re on, that much is certain. But if we continue to place all our weight on only one leg of our economy, eventually that leg will break, and it will take everything down with it. The worst time to raise taxes on any industry is during a recession. Our economy has been depressed for four years and now it’s in full-blown crisis — huge tax increases are the last thing we need.

Alaskans need to support our hardworking neighbors in every industry. Oil and gas employees work here, play here, are our friends, and they want a strong state just as much as the rest of us. Together, we can find a workable solution that protects the permanent fund dividend, cuts overspending, and signals that Alaska is open for business. This is our great state, and failure is not an option.

The road to success starts with making smart decisions. First, we Alaskans must defeat Ballot Measure 1. Then, let’s all pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, work together like we’ve always done, and find a comprehensive long-term solution to our state’s fiscal problems.

We can find long-term solutions, but a quick-fix ballot measure isn’t it. I am voting “no” on Ballot Measure 1 to protect the borough I love; in the state I love. I hope you will join me and vote “no” as well.

Charlie Pierce currently serves as mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

• By Charlie Pierce

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