From Richard Mauer in Juneau —
The Senate on Saturday morning took a small bill to encourage petroleum drilling in the state’s Interior and stuffed it with a key part of oil-tax reform that it had been unable to pass in a much larger bill.
The parliamentary move had been brewing since at least Friday as it became clear that the oil-tax measure it’s been working on for months, Senate Bill 192, couldn’t be molded into a compromise between the Senate’s Democrats and Republicans.
The move saved the part of SB192 that encourages new fields by reducing taxes for up to 10 years, giving substantial savings to producers. That component was popular with Republicans and Democrats and had gotten strong support from an independent North Slope company, Armstrong Oil & Gas, which described it as “meaningful,” a buzzword that other companies had used to dismiss other parts of the original bill as not meaningful.
After the Senate Finance Committee’s action, Sen. Bill Wielechowski, one of the authors of original Senate bill, said the smaller measure will still lead to greater oil development and a more diverse industry in Alaska without giving back billions of dollars to the big three: BP, Conoco Phillips and Exxon.
He said the bill should end talk of a special session, since it could clear the Senate Saturday and go straight to the House, which has long been clamoring for meaningful tax reform.
House Speaker Mike Chenault missed several reporters waiting to ask questions about his view on the bill when he used a back entrance to the House floor. One of his key strategists on oil issues, Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, said the Senate measure didn’t provide broad enough reform. And, he said, he thought the House would need substantial time to review the bill.
The governor’s office had not responded to an email message seeking comment.