Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell is faced with a question that, to those of us in the Lower 48, must seem strange: Were Sarah Palin's tax policies too liberal? From the Anchorage Daily News:
Gov. Sean Parnell is reviewing whether to change state oil tax laws implemented under Sarah Palin, as oil companies blame the taxes for driving investment dollars from Alaska to other parts of the world. The governor said Wednesday that he has asked the state Department of Revenue to evaluate whether any "tweaks" should be made to the tax system that could lead directly to more jobs for Alaskans. He said he's also spoken with oil companies.
Republican state legislators are increasingly vocal with criticism of the tax system, known as Alaska's Clear and Equitable Share, or ACES. The Legislature passed it in 2007, as oil prices skyrocketed, at the urging of Palin and then-Lt. Gov. Parnell.
ACES represented a major tax increase on the oil companies during high oil prices, with the amount the state takes tied to the price. This year the price has fallen from the historic highs reached last year, but it is still $20 a barrel higher than the average of this decade.
The subtext here is politics. Parnell faces a Republican primary challenge from Ralph Samuels, a former legislative leader. Samuels' campaign looks as though it will focus on the oil tax issue.
I'm curious to see how this one places out. On one hand, Alaska's economy is heavily dependent on the oil industry, which makes Alaskans sensitive to anything that hurts the industry.
Still, there's a populist streak in the state that says that oil companies should pay their fair share for the state's natural resources. That populist streak was what Palin took advantage of when she pursued her tax plan.
Parnell's wavering on the topic suggests he doesn't think that sentiment is strong within the Republican Party. But, the electorate as a whole might still prefer the higher taxes. I bet the Democratic nominee will want to find out -- even if it means embracing one of Palin's signature achievements.
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