Signature drive for oil tax cut repeal winding down

Volunteers also collected signatures during the Fourth of July parade.

Volunteers also collected signatures during the Fourth of July parade. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

Signature gatherers for the effort to repeal Senate Bill 21, the oil and gas tax cut bill meant to spur new production and economic growth, are wrapping up their drive in Juneau.

Cindy Spanyers, the Juneau petition captain, says the minimum number of signatures needed from Juneau’s two House districts is about 1,900.

As of Friday afternoon, she says 65 volunteers have collected at least 4,407 signatures, with several signature books still outstanding and uncounted.

Former Attorney General and former Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho is one of the volunteers. Botelho, who tends to be very circumspect in his political statements, says he couldn’t stay on the sidelines on this issue.

“Well, I think it is a critical issue for the state. The revenues are kind of the foundation for what government does,” Botelho said.

The petition organizers fear the tax cut gives up too much state revenue – estimated in the billions of dollars over the next five years – and are skeptical that the tax cut will generate meaningful economic growth.

“I don’t impugn the motives of those who supported SB21. I think many approach this in good faith and say, ‘This is the best outcome for the state.’ I just disagree with that,” Botelho said.

Local organizers plan to mail off the signatures on Tuesday to meet a July 13 deadline.

Statewide, the effort needs 30,169 signatures for the repeal question to appear on ballots in the August 2014 primary election.

Local opponents of the repeal could not immediately be reached for comment, though the Juneau Chamber of Commerce has joined many pro-business interests around the state in its opposition to the repeal effort. A chamber resolution cites the state’s economic dependence on the oil and gas industry, declining pipeline throughput, and the legislature’s work on SB21 as reasons to oppose the repeal.

Gordon Harrison, another local signature gatherer who was working the 4th of July crowds, notes that signing the petition merely helps get the question put on the ballot. If it gets there, he says that’s an opportunity to have a long, statewide discussion in the run up to the 2014 primaries.

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