Monday, March 19, 2012

Speaker cautious, but optimistic, about oil tax changes

Tim Bradner
Alaska Journal of Commerce

JUNEAU — House Speaker Mike Chenault is hopeful, but still cautious, on prospects for a major reform of state oil and gas taxes passing the Legislature in the final weeks of the 2012 session.

With 28 days left in the session before the required April 15 adjournment hearings are still underway on the Senate’s version of the bill, Senate Bill 192, in the Senate Finance Committee.

In a Monday briefing by House leaders Chenault said he thinks it may take one to two weeks for the Senate to finish its work and pass the bill to the House.

The Senate version is much different than an oil tax bill passed by the House last year, House Bill 110.

“When we get the Senate’s bill we will assign it to committees in the House for review, to see what’s in it, and see if we can get enough consensus for action,” Chenault said.

House members are watching the Senate committee’s deliberations but with other bills pending in the House it is difficult to set aside enough time to gain a full understanding of detailed presentations being made by consultants to the Senate, the Speaker said.

It would be possible for the House to pass the bill with just two weeks left, but it will depend on what House members think of the Senate proposal, the Speaker said. “Remember that we passed ACES (the current state oil tax) in just three and a half weeks,” he said.

ACES, or “Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share,” the state’s net profits production tax, was adopted in 2007.

House Bill 110, which is now in the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee, was introduced last year by Gov. Sean Parnell to make changes in the ACES tax to encourage more industry production.

The bill was modified in House committees and passed to the Senate.

On other matters Chenault said the House version of the operating budget passed that body last Friday and has now gone to the Senate. “We expect to get it back in about two weeks, and then go to conference to work out differences,” between the House and Senate versions of the operating budget, Chenault said.

Meanwhile, the House Finance Committee will start work on its version of a capital budget bill this week, he said. The Senate has been working on its capital budget for several weeks.