JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin defended as fair and commonsense the oil tax structure she championed while in office, a system that has been dismantled by state lawmakers and her successor, fellow Republican Sean Parnell.
Palin also took a swipe at Parnell on Anchorage radio station KWHL when asked about Parnell's change in direction.
"Well, bless his heart. Remember that Sean Parnell came from the oil industry. He was, you know, an employee of ConocoPhillips ... lobbying for the cause there. So perhaps that's engrained in him," she said during her call-in appearance on the Bob and Mark show Wednesday.
Parnell, who was director of state government relations for ConocoPhillips in Alaska from 2000 to 2003, was Palin's lieutenant governor. He was elected with her in 2006 and took over for her as governor when she resigned during her first term in 2009.
While early on he supported the tax system she championed, known as Alaska's Clear and Equitable Share, or ACES, he began proposing efforts to change it as early as 2010, shortly after he was elected in his own right, as a way to help boost oil production. Ultimately, lawmakers last year approved an entirely new production tax system, though that system, which Parnell helped put in place, is the subject of a referendum that voters will decide in August.
Vic Fischer, a prominent Alaskan and leader of the effort to repeal the new tax system, said he's not sure how Palin's comments will resonate with Alaskans. But he said she's a "pretty feisty lady" whose comments brought attention to the repeal effort.
Oil taxes are a big deal in Alaska, since oil revenues are largely responsible for the funding of state government operations.
Critics of the new system, like Fischer, call it a giveaway with no guarantee of what Alaska will see in return.
But supporters say it's working, citing a flurry of industry-related activity and plans by the companies to commit billions of dollars in new investments. "Results matter," Parnell spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said by email. She said Alaskans have also benefited since the law's passage from more rigs on the North Slope and more than 1,000 new jobs at Point Thomson, a major oil and gas field that certain companies have an obligation to work to develop under a settlement with the state.
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