Opinion: Voting no for Alaska’s future

By Jim Johnsen –

Alaskans are just weeks away from a pivotal decision in our young state’s history. The decision is whether to vote yes to repeal our new tax law or vote no to let the new law stand.

I will vote NO on 1. Here’s why.

I have lived in Alaska for nearly 30 years in Juneau, Fairbanks, and Anchorage. I have worked for state government, a labor union, the university, an Alaska Native corporation, and one of Alaska’s few technology companies. My wife and I raised and educated our kids here. Our best friends are here. Our home is here. Our future is here.

We love Alaska for the opportunities it provides its people, whether those people are Democrats or Republicans, men or women, blue or white collar, Alaska Native or transplants from Outside. Those opportunities include great schools and access to higher education, good jobs, diverse communities, beautiful country and rich natural resources, innovative people, and an opportunity to make a difference. In Alaska, we benefit from the opportunities created by those who came before us and, unlike people Outside, we get to create opportunities for those who follow.

Opportunities are important not only for each of us and our families, opportunities are important for the companies we need to keep Alaska’s economy growing. Companies make decisions about where to operate, what and where to produce, what to invest, who to hire, and what to support in the community. Companies make those decisions based on what is in the best interest of their shareholders, their customers, and their employees. Are the opportunities better in Alaska or in North Dakota? Are they better in the United States or in Australia?

The cost of living is one of the factors we as individuals consider as we decide where to live. We weigh those costs with the benefits and decide either to stay in Alaska or to take off. Sure, the decision is more complicated than that because there are lots of other factors in play, but I think we’d all agree that if our individual income taxes were among the highest in the country, we might think twice about our future here.



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Under the old tax law, ACES, we taxed the oil companies at near the highest rate in the nation, if not the world. The oil companies asked themselves whether it made sense to invest in Alaska or to invest in places with more competitive tax rates. Their decision in response to ACES to invest more Outside meant that Alaska’s production declined at a faster rate than it otherwise would have, that development slowed down, that job creation and other opportunities for Alaskans lagged. And since the new law (SB 21) was passed, oil company investment is up, employment is up, exploration is up, production is up, all combining to create more opportunities for Alaskans. Add to that, with the new oil tax in place, for the first time in years, there’s real progress being made on a natural gas line.

Like many Alaskans I am not a member of either major party. I tend to make political decisions on the merits of the particular candidate or the issue. In addition, like most of us, I look for how leaders I know and respect come down on the issue.

On the merits, the evidence is clear that the oil companies are picking up their investment in Alaska, resulting in more jobs and other opportunities for Alaskans. Instead of continued decline under ACES, SB 21 has stemmed the decline and positioned Alaska for growth. The record is clear that SB 21 has improved the investment climate for our state’s single most important economic driver, creating opportunities for a future for ourselves and our families.

And as I look to our leaders, I put much more weight on those leaders who have been “in the arena,” the ones who have created businesses and jobs, who have taken risks, who have been in the room when tough decisions got made, who understand because they have lived it. On this score, Alaska’s experienced and knowledgeable leaders are voting NO on 1. Former governors—both Republican and Democrat—will vote No on 1. Most of our legislators will vote No on 1. Labor union leaders will vote No on 1. Alaska Native corporation leaders will vote No on 1. Business leaders—of companies small, medium, and large– will vote No on 1.

Let’s give SB 21 the opportunity it deserves. It’s working!

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