Join in referendum to restore Alaska's oil profits
ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and BP all did very well this legislative session. The rest of us? Not so great. We lost $4.5 billion to three of the richest corporations in the world, money that could have been used to educate our children, provide public safety, and support vital programs such as the Senior Benefits Program and Alaska’s Pioneer Homes.
I don’t believe in sacrificing essential services for Alaskans in order to increase oil industry profits. SB 21, the Governor’s oil wealth giveaway, will cause the state to choose between running massive annual deficits or funding programs to assist our most needy citizens. I believe state government exists to help those in need and provide the services necessary to let all Alaskans live with dignity.
The Senior Benefits Program and Alaska’s Pioneer Homes are two shining examples of programs that assist Alaskans in these causes. Established in 2007, the Senior Benefits Program pays cash benefits to Alaskan seniors who are age 65 or older and have low to moderate income. The Alaska Pioneer Homes Program, established in 1913, provides housing and assisted living services to older Alaskans.
Together these programs serve over 11,000 Alaskans and have a combined annual operating cost of $83 million. Those that depend on these services cannot afford to lose them. The passage of SB 21 puts these absolutely essential programs in danger.
Last year the senate stopped the giveaway. This year it passed. What was different? Gerrymandered election districts drawn by a Redistricting Board dominated by Republicans and ruled unconstitutional by our Supreme Court produced a state senate that passed SB 21 with no votes to spare, 11 in favor and 9 against.
I’m proud of the nine of us – seven Democrats and two Republicans -- who stood firm. We proposed tax reductions that were tied to increases in production and investment, but those ideas were rejected.
Fortunately there is a solution to SB 21. It’s called a referendum: a citizen-powered effort to collect signatures to place the repeal of SB 21 on the ballot next election.
Vic Fischer, who helped write our constitution, is spearheading the effort to overturn SB 21 with a vote of the people. The rules that govern referendums require three main sponsors, so he’s been joined by Bella Hammond, Jay Hammond’s widow, and Jim Whitaker, a former mayor of Fairbanks. This distinguished trio is acting as they should, as citizens of an owner state. I think they are Alaskan patriots and I intend to help them.
This referendum will be unlike anything the state has ever seen. It’s a nearly perfect example of citizen power versus corporate power. Or to use the owner state model, it’s our board of directors versus theirs.
The struggle to put a fair oil tax on the books and keep it there may all come down to how we answer one critical question: who owns Alaska and what are the values we hold dear? Join me in standing up for Alaska by signing the referendum and encouraging others to do the same.