Oil tax cuts spur fight in Alaska

Alaskans are worried that a cut to oil taxes could ruin the state budget. BP credits the tax break for spurring new investments in the North Slope oil field.

Some of the world’s biggest oil companies are lining up again to spend money on production in Alaska.

The first one to come forward was ConocoPhillips, and now BP says it will invest a billion dollars in the state over the next five years, thanks to new tax incentives.

Some Alaskans say that doesn’t add up in their favor. The state’s residents get a check every year with their share of the state’s oil wealth. The more oil production, the bigger the check. But production has been falling since the 1980s.

To get oil companies drilling again, Alaska’s legislature approved $750 million a year in new tax relief this April.  Most state Democrats voted against the bill, including Representative Les Gara, who says the state won’t see much in return.

“That money that Exxon, BP and Conoco get? They can spend in Russia if they want, in Libya if they want, they don’t have to spend it here," says Gara. 

He adds that the oil companies are calling their Alaska projects “new,” but they were in the works before the tax cuts.

BP spokeswoman Dawn Patience doesn’t deny that.

“Projects like this don’t happen overnight, but they certainly were not possible without the tax reform that happened in Alaska, and it really put Alaska back in the game,” she explains.

But some residents who think the state will lose in the long run are trying to repeal the tax reforms. Their volunteers are collecting signatures to put a question on next year’s ballot.

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