House Resources passes SB21, lowers base tax rate

House Resources Committee

The audience at 2:06 a.m. Thursday, April 4, near the end of a House Resources Committee meeting that began more than 12 hours earlier. Photo by Skip Gray.

The House Resources Committee passed the governor’s oil tax break bill just after 2 a.m. Thursday morning after considering 34 amendments in a marathon meeting.

The most substantial amendment lowered the base tax rate oil producers would pay from 35 percent down to 33 percent. State officials on hand to address committee questions said revised revenue estimates would be forthcoming. The total estimated revenue loss under the 33 percent base tax rate is likely to lay between $500 million and $1 billion per year.

An earlier amendment by Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, sought to lower the base tax rate to 30 percent but failed in a 3-6 vote. Republican Reps. Eric Feige, Dan Saddler, Paul Seaton and Peggy Wilson joined Democratic Reps. Geran Tarr and Chris Tuck in opposition to Hawker’s amendment. Republican Reps. Craig Johnson and Kurt Olson voted with Hawker.

Wilson, who was visibly hesitant to announce her roll call vote on Hawker’s 30 percent amendment before voting no, later offered the more modest 33 percent amendment that prevailed along party lines.

State officials testified that a 30 percent base tax rate would have cost the state an extra $550 million per year, roughly, over the 35 percent base tax. That would mean a total of more than $1 billion per year revenue loss in the initial years.

Senate Bill 21’s next stop is the House Finance Committee, which has hearings scheduled on it later Thursday morning and afternoon.

Supporters — generally Republicans — say the bill is intended to stop declining oil production and reignite economic growth in Alaska. Opponents — generally Democrats and some moderate Republicans — say it’s a multibillion dollar tax giveaway that may fail to effect those intentions, while crippling the state treasury and curbing state projects and programs that rely on state oil tax revenue.

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