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Homer says ‘Yes’ on Ballot Measure 1, but statewide vote favors ‘No’ position

Posted: August 20, 2014 - 4:01pm

While early reports from the Alaska Division of Elections showed “yes” votes on Ballot Measure 1 in the lead, within three hours after polls closed on Tuesday and with more than half the precincts reporting, the unofficial results pulled a switch with the “no” votes gaining ground.

As of Wednesday morning, with 435 of 441 precincts reporting, the gap favoring a “no” vote had widened with 79,980 or 52.55 percent voting “no” and 73,194 or 47.78 percent voting “yes.”

Locally, results told a different story. 

Overall, House District 31 favored “yes” over “no” with a 2,689-to-2,148 vote. In Homer, Precinct No. 1 had 543 “yes” votes and 270 “no” votes and Precinct No. 2 had 369 “yes” votes and 208 “no” votes.

Eileen Becker of Homer, who opposed the ballot measure, said she would have been comfortable if the overall margin had been wider.

“It proves we’re divided,” said Becker, who blamed the close vote on a lack of understanding about the referendum that, if passed, would have repealed the state’s oil and gas tax structure established by the Legislature’s passage of Senate Bill 21 in 2013. “For a lot of people I talked to, there really wasn’t a good understanding of what was involved.”  

Becker was critical of the state’s ballot measure pamphlet that devoted 34 pages to the subject.

“It was kind of sloppy, that whole process, and should have been boiled down to the pros and cons, but I don’t know if that could have been done. It was a many-faceted thing,” said Becker.

Jon Faulkner, another local proponent of the “no” vote, credited the sponsors of Ballot Measure 1 for raising the issue.

“I never felt they didn’t have an important case to be made or point to be heard, although I didn’t support the repeal,” he said. “I voted ‘no,’ but I think the argument was definitely one worth having. … The fact they showed as well as they did is reflective of a lot of anxiety Alaskans have.”

Faulkner criticized the complicated nature of the referendum.

“As educated as I was on the issue and knew exactly how I was going to vote, I took the time to read the actual ballot proposition when I was in the ballot booth, and the more I read it, the more confused I became,” said Faulkner. “Here’s a case when too much information was not good for voters when it came to actually casting the ballot.”

The narrow margin separating the yes and no sides of the ballot measure reflected “a lot more oil industry supportive voices were wrong on this issue,” said Faulkner. “They were predicting, and I’ll include myself among them, a wider margin of victory.” 

For Larry Smith, who helped organize a “vote yes” rally in Homer in June, the narrow margin separating “no” and “yes” votes “will cause some thoughtful review on the part of people pushing the industry agenda. They spent, depending on who you listen to, between $13 and $18 million and this is what they got?”

Smith characterized the results on Ballot Measure 1 as a “cautionary note for Gov. Parnell’s campaign. There are a lot of people that didn’t vote with the governor on this one. That’s a serious issue for him to address.”

All in all, Smith said the vote “marks a turning point in the relationship between big oil and the citizens of the state. … The industry is trying many different ways to get popular support and this time it cost them a lot more money than it ever did before. Hopefully it’s a lesson to them.”

Looking to the future, Frank Mullen, who also organized the “vote yes” rally in Homer, said, “If Alaskans wake up and elect a Legislature that isn’t so much supporting the ‘oiligarchy,’ then at anytime the Legislature could come back and tinker with the tax structure yet again, but as long as Alaskans are happy being subservient to the ‘oiligarchy,’ they have chosen. The voters have spoken. Rather than being an ‘owner state,’ we’re an ‘owned state.’”

Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, campaigned for passage of Ballot Measure 1. Like others, he considered it a “confusing issue. It’s not black or white. It’s how good or how bad is good or bad enough, which is a much more difficult question, especially on something that is so detailed as tax rates and all these credits and different pieces of the bill.”

Of the multitude of ads opposing the referendum, Seaton said he thought the combined voices of former Gov. Tony Knowles and Sen. Lisa Murkowski and ads featuring Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre were effective in carrying a “vote no” and “trust us” message.

As for what will happen next with regard to how the state taxes the oil and gas industry, Seaton said the next Legislature may consider points raised by the “vote yes” people and “may make some modifications.” 

The ballot measure’s complicated title was “an act relating to the oil and gas production, tax interest rates on overdue taxes and tax credits.” Small wonder when Bill Walker, independent gubernatorial candidate, was in Homer in July, he said if a vote had been held then, “‘I don’t understand’ would win by a landslide.”

Senate Bill 21 was brought to the Legislature by Gov. Sean Parnell. He said it was a way to increase oil production and investment dollars in Alaska’s oil industry. 

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jokimball777 08/21/14 - 10:38 am
How much does production need to increase to make up for lost $$

That is the real question, and there is no way that we will ever recover the lost revenue.

Anyone who watched this legislature could see how they were throwing the billions in savings from ACES out the window on boondoggle projects, hundreds of millions for studies etc. (even while they said no money for education)

They are not interested in Alaska's financial future, more like trying to drive us into debt as fast as possible so that bankers can make money loaning us more.

Why didn't Parnell release the Gaffney Cline report? Why have there been no audits of the ACES or SB21 tax structure? Why do they keep saying ACES was a failure when we stocked up 15 Billion in savings?

No matter how much is being produced, we must charge an appropriate amount for our oil, and this tax break just cut our revenue drastically and no amount of increased production is going to make up for it.

But what does Conoco care? They just posted increasing profits even as production declined "ConocoPhillips profits up, Alaska production down" And they have admitted they have no intention of increasing production "Alaska oil production to continue decline, company officials testify"

People need to read before they vote. Folks that weren't paying attention and are easily bought by oil company propaganda, just gave billions to record profit making oil companies for absolutely no reason.

Washington post "Alaska revenue to fall $2 Billion after oil tax cuts take effect.

kearbear 08/21/14 - 02:27 pm
State Budget

The current total state budget is $13.0 billion (FY 2012).
The State does not have a funding problem. The State has a spending problem. The State employs nearly 25,000 people. Oil tax dollars pay their salaries, retirement benefits, and healthcare benefits.
Department of Health and Social Services ($2.5 billion) – includes state and federal spending on Medicaid and Medicare, as well as other programs.
Education and Early Development ($1.6 billion) – primarily state funding used to operate schools throughout Alaska.
University of Alaska ($891 million) nearly a billion dollars – primarily state funding for operating Alaska’s university system. The size of State government is large enough, expensive enough, and intrusive enough. SB21, at current price and costs of producing oil, raises more revenue for the State then ACES. ACES was a punitive, progressive, confiscatory and predatory rate of taxation that harmed all sectors of the Alaskan economy including the private sector.

jokimball777 08/23/14 - 07:31 am
not regular spending kearbear, ludicrous megaprojects

This legislature wasted Billions gained by ACES right and left on ludicrous megaprojects, meanwhile complaining about regular spending like schools and giving away 2 Billion per year of our revenue with SB21.

Please read the ADN today "With tighter revenue, lawmakers should stop pushing ludicrous megaprojects"

No one would trust anything Parnell or this legislature did last session if they paid any attention at all.

Major opposition in their own districts for these stupid projects, Umed road, Knik Bridge, the ridiculous 'road out of Juneau' which is really a road to a mine through avalanche territory then to another ferry terminal...but they wasted 100's of millions of our money anyway like it was another day at the pentagon.

During the 'debate' about SB21 (where oil executives refused to be put under oath and Republicans refused to request it ) Every amendment offered to protect Alaska in SB21 was completely ignored, they were not interested at all. They are corrupt bastards club redux, and it is time to call in the FBI yet again.

Anyone who trust oil companies either has not lived in Alaska long, is just willfully ignorant or paid by said oil companies to pretend they are from Alaska and make comments incessantly saying the same thing with no facts or thought process involved.

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