From Richard Mauer in Juneau —
The House teased the Senate this morning when it moved the Senate’s oil-tax credit for new fields into the film tax credit bill and appeared ready to move it out of the House Rules Committee.
Then Rules chairman Craig Johnson called a recess, huddled with House Speaker Mike Chenault and other Republican leaders, and called the committee back into session.
Then he killed the Senate’s oil-tax reform.
The movie tax credit was probably the perfect venue for the morning’s dramatic short subject. Later, Chenault, a member of the rules committee, said it was never the intent of House leadership to put the tax measure in the film bill in the first place, and removing it was only an effort to fix a mistake. He said it was accidentally swept into the bill with several other tax credits sought by the House. (Since the film tax credit was a big Senate measure, the House-sought credits stood a better chance of passage as an attachment than as stand-alone bills.)
Not everyone believed that story. But in any event, with Sunday being the last day of the session unless the governor calls the Legislature into overtime, the new-field oil-tax credit is dead.
Or is it?
“You never know,” Sen. Lesil McGuire, an Anchorage Republican and strong supporter of the new-field credit, said as she rushed to the 10:15 a.m. Senate floor session. “It’s still early, believe it or not. I know that sounds crazy to the public, but there’s still many hours left. So I hope they consider that doing something good for new development is the right thing to do.”
Some senators treated the House Rules action as a mortar round fired across the green line separating the House and Senate, but it’s the time of year for that. Many in the House saw the oil-tax measure as a mortar round directed at them.
Speaking to reporters after the Rule Committee meeting, Chenault said he was only interested in the public policy question. The Senate failed to pass broad oil-tax cuts, and at the same time, the limited measure they sent over needed more time to study, Chenault said.
Could it still come back this year? he was asked. Maybe in a special session, he replied.
On the fifth floor, where Sen. Bert Stedman had just wrapped up a meeting of the Senate Finance Committee — the origin of the new-field tax-credit bill — word had just arrived of the House Rules actions.
Like McGuire, Stedman said he wasn’t willing to call it quits. Why does the House oppose meaningful oil-tax reform? he asked. Maybe the Senate would try to resurrect it in a conference committee, he said.