2020 is turning out to be one for the record books. COVID-19 has turned our lives upside down; the economy, once recovering, has been hit hard by shutdowns; our summer tourism season is in serious jeopardy; and oil prices have cratered. All this, and we’re just six months into the year.
One thing is certain: Alaskans will need to work together to begin the long road to economic recovery. Our various industries will put their best foot forward to restart the economy, but each one of them, from tourism to commercial fishing, will need help from citizens and governments to survive. Alaska voters have a huge role to play.
My own family business faces the daunting task of trying to weather the storm. My husband and I operate a lodging business on the Kenai River, and we’re understandably anxious about the uncertainty people are feeling when it comes to traveling this year. My husband and I were able to fulfill our dream of owning a lodge on the Kenai River because of a healthy oil and gas industry. Ballot Measure 1 threatens future generations from having those same opportunities.
What is known is that the oil tax ballot measure will make this recovery even harder to achieve, and that includes my family business here in Soldotna. I think most Alaskans would agree now is the worst time to substantially raise taxes on any industry, regardless of what they make and sell. The oil industry, which fuels our economy from Ketchikan to the North Slope, is facing perhaps its toughest financial predicament in state history. Raising their taxes by 150-300% overnight was a bad idea six months ago, but it’s a downright horrible idea now. With oil prices bottoming out, it will be extremely difficult for these companies to maintain even the status quo.
Here on the Kenai Peninsula, we know firsthand what it looks like when oil companies pull back. Our friends, neighbors and colleagues lose their jobs. The small businesses that rely on a healthy oil and gas industry are forced to close their doors. We’ve lived through boom and bust, yet always persevered and even thrived because of our resilience. It makes no sense to make our collective situation worse by adding an enormous new tax burden to an industry that supports so much of our economy. My small, family business relies on a healthy oil and gas industry to survive. I urge all Alaskans to learn more about this very serious issue and prepare to vote no on the oil tax ballot measure later this year. Our economic recovery depends on it.
Jill Schaefer and her husband are small business owners raising their family in Soldotna.