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Parnell calls out Alaska senators in oil speech

Associated Press Modified: October 12, 2012 at 8:00 pm •  Published: October 12, 2012

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Gov. Sean Parnell, who has taken aim at Senate Democrats for their position on his oil tax-cut plans, named names in a speech this week to the Alaska Support Industry Alliance.

The industry group has supported the Republican governor's push to cut taxes as a way to boost industry investment and help reverse a trend of declining oil production. Parnell told members of the group that some legislators think Alaska's economy is going to shrink, so government needs to get all the money it can now.

Urged by some in the audience to give names, the governor said Democratic Sens. Bill Wielechowski and Hollis French of Anchorage and Joe Paskvan of Fairbanks were among the senators who have a different view of economics than he and other legislators do.

A video of the speech was released through Parnell's social media feeds on Friday.

Parnell has been critical of the Senate's bipartisan majority for its resistance to his tax-cut plans, and has tailored that criticism more narrowly to Senate Democrats as the election year has unfolded.

Wielechowski and French have been among the staunchest defenders of the current tax structure, known as Alaska's Clear and Equitable Share, or ACES.

The two senators and Paskvan have challenged Parnell and his administration on his tax-cut plans. All three lawmakers are in re-election fights.

Parnell has been raising raise money for Republican candidates, including at least some of the senators' opponents.

"The senators I mentioned, and those who think like them, have done nothing to turn around declining North Slope production," Parnell said in the speech. "They've done nothing to grow Alaska's economy. Instead, they protected status quo decline."

He referred to them as senators "with a spine for decline."

Neither Wielechowski nor Paskvan had heard the speech. Wielechowski called Parnell's tax plan a giveaway, "with no strings attached," that would be disastrous for the state's economy and budget.

"He wants to take Alaska from being an owner state to being an owned state," he said.

Wielechowski noted that the Senate passed legislation during the regular session that would spur production from new fields.

Paskvan, who is co-chair of the Senate Resources Committee, noted the work he's done in delving into issues surrounding development of shale or viscous oil, as well as development off-shore.

"To think that I've ever advocated in this shrinking pie versus increasing pie discussion that the governor has started, my position has always been that I'm most optimistic for Alaska's future for the next 50-100 years," he said.

Just because Parnell says something "doesn't mean it's true," he said.

In 2011, coalition leaders refused to follow the House's lead and pass Parnell's tax cut plan, saying they didn't have the information needed to make a sound policy call. The Senate took the lead in crafting an oil tax plan this year, but a comprehensive tax plan failed to garner adequate support within the bipartisan caucus.

The Senate instead, in the waning hours of the regular session, passed a bill that included provisions that would have given a tax break for new-field production. The House shot that down, with the speaker saying the plan hadn't been vetted in the House.

A tax-cut plan put forth by Parnell during this year's special session was criticized by lawmakers in both parties and chambers.

Alaska relies heavily on oil production to run its government, but industry production has been declining. Critics of ACES, including the North Slope's three major producers, say the tax structure eats too deeply into their profits when prices are high and is a disincentive to new projects and new drilling.

Parnell has said that addressing oil production is a top priority for him heading into the next legislative session.

Parnell also took aim at critics who have labeled his plan a $2 billion a year giveaway, calling it a bumper sticker slogan but misleading. During debate on his 2011 tax-cut plan, it was estimated the plan would cut revenue by $1.8 billion to $2.1 billion by fiscal year 2017 if there was no new production. It was billed as a worst-case scenario.


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Parnell speech to Alaska Support Industry Alliance:


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