Vic Fischer first to sign oil tax initiative as group launches signature-gathering effort

Vic Fischer signs the Fair Share Act initiative petition moments after backers secured the signature booklets from the Division of Elections on Oct. 23, 2019. (Photo by Matt Buxton/TMS)

ANCHORAGE—The group backing the Fair Share Act left the Alaska Division of Elections’ Anchorage office shortly after 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday with a pushcart loaded with 500 green signature booklets. Backers stopped outside the office to hype up the initiative and collect the group’s very first signature from Alaska’s last living delegate to the state’s constitutional convention, Vic Fischer.

“I can’t tell you what an honor it is to have this gentleman be the first to sign our initiative,” said Robin Brena, an oil and gas attorney who’s backing the initiative.

The group now sets out on the task of gathering the remaining 28,500 signatures to reach the 2020 ballot. Brena called for volunteers to help circulate the petition booklets and gather signatures ahead, encouraging people to visit the group’s website for more information.

“This represents a commonsense solution to get our share. It’s going to help us pay for essential services. The fair share is the foundation that created our Permanent Fund and is the foundation that allows us to receive dividends,” he said. “Our fair share is how a modern Alaska was built and it’s how it’s going to be maintained.”

The Fair Share Act seeks primarily to increase taxes on Alaska’s largest legacy fields that produce more than 40,000 barrels of oil per day and have produced more than 400 million barrels in their lifetime. It would only currently apply to Prudhoe Bay, Kuparuk River and Alpine oil fields.

The initiative would raise the minimum tax on those fields and eliminate certain credits that could be applied to those fields. Backers say it would raise annual state revenue by about $1 billion.

Fischer said he signed the measure because he believed Alaskans aren’t getting a fair share of the oil that, under the constitution he helped write, they own. Fischer has been critical of the cuts handed down by Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy and said the new revenue would go a long way to protecting things that matter to Alaskans, including the dividend.

“I think Alaska needs a decent share of the oil that we, the people of Alaska, own. We are not getting a decent share, and this will give it to us,” he said. “It will help maintain roads, maintain schools, pay permanent fund dividends and meet the other needs of the people of Alaska.”

Why it matters

The group faces a tight deadline to get the remaining signatures it needs to get the initiative on the 2020 ballot. They’ll have until the start of the next legislative session on Jan. 21, 2020 to turn in the signatures to the Division of Elections for review.

The group had braced for the possibility that the state would reject the initiative altogether, forcing them to take it to the court. The backers aren’t thrilled with the way the state has handled the initiative so far (we’ll have more on that in a separate post), but today’s development will allow them to begin collecting signatures.

Once turned in, the Legislature will have the opportunity to knock the initiative off the ballot by passing something that’s materially similar to the initiative. There’s been rumors of such a move being in the works, so such an outcome is a possibility, but it won’t have been a possibility without this initiative.

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