Signatures filed for North Slope oil tax initiative in Alaska

The campaign Vote Yes for Alaska’s Fair Share filed signatures for a ballot initiative to increases taxes on North Slope oil production fields. The taxes would apply to North Slope fields that have a lifetime output of at least 400 million barrels of oil and had a daily output of at least 40,000 barrels during the prior year. As of 2020, three oil production fields—Alpine, Kuparuk, and Prudhoe Bay—met those criteria. The ballot initiative would tax oil production using an alternative gross minimum tax or an additional production tax, whichever is greater for each month and each field.

On January 17, 2020, the campaign filed 44,624 signatures with election officials. At least 28,501 (63.9 percent) of the submitted signatures need to be valid. Robin Brena, chairperson of Vote Yes for Alaska’s Fair Share, said the campaign had collected enough signatures in 35 state House districts to meet the state’s distribution requirement of 30 House districts. As the ballot initiative is indirect, certification would first send the proposal to the Alaska State Legislature, which would have the chance to approve the proposal outright. Otherwise, the ballot initiative would go before voters at the election on August 18, 2020, or November 3, 2020, depending on when the legislature adjourns this year’s regular session.

The ballot initiative has divided former oil officials who worked under former Gov. Bill Walker (I). Robin Brena, who served as chairperson of Walker’s Transition Subcommittee on Oil and Gas, is leading Vote Yes for Alaska’s Fair Share. Chantal Walsh, a petroleum engineer and former Oil and Gas Division Director for Walker, is leading the opposition campaign OneAlaska. The Alaska Oil and Gas Association, as well as ConocoPhillips Alaska and ExxonMobil, are backing the opposition campaign.

Alaska voters last decided an oil-related ballot measure in August 2014. The measure, which sought to overturn legislation that expanded tax credits to oil companies and made the oil production tax a flat, rather than graduated, rate. The campaign that sought to overturn the legislation raised $488,09, most of which came from businessman BJ Gottstein, and the campaign to uphold the legislation raised $14.22 million, including $3.6 million from BP, $3.6 million from ExxonMobil, and $2.5 million from ConocoPhillips Alaska.

Vote Yes for Alaska’s Fair Share is the second campaign to file signatures for a ballot initiative this cycle. On January 9, 2020, the campaign Alaskans for Better Elections filed 41,068 signatures for a ballot initiative to replace partisan primaries with open top-four primaries and use ranked-choice voting in general elections. The final deadline to file signatures for Alaska ballot initiatives ahead of the 2020 election is January 21, 2020.

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Additional reading:
Alaska 2020 ballot measures
Alaska Top Four Ranked Choice Voting and Campaign Finance Laws Initiative (2020)
2020 ballot measures