(Adds polls closing)
By Steve Quinn
JUNEAU Aug 19 Voting ended on Tuesday evening
in an Alaska primary election that in part will decide whether
to repeal or uphold a new law that cuts taxes on oil production
and is worth up to $1 billion a year to companies such as Conoco
Phillips, BP Plc and Exxon Mobil Corp.
If voters repeal the eight-month-old tax reduction ushered
in by Governor Sean Parnell, the state would go back to the
system implemented by Parnell's old boss Sarah Palin, who raised
taxes in 2007.
Parnell says his tax rollback will make Alaska more
competitive for investment and North Slope oil producers. He
calls the More Alaska Production Act crucial to the state's
long-term future because it would reverse declining output.
Opponents say Parnell's system only puts more money in the
oil companies' pockets while depleting the state's fiscal war
The opponents call it a "giveaway," saying high oil prices
could push an extra $1 billion to oil companies and they
question whether oil output can be lifted over the long term.
A repeal would put Palin's old system in place and send the
Legislature back to the drawing board next session.
Parnell says his system has already slowed drops in output.
"The word (giveaway) troubles me because it is built on a
short-term vision, rather than long-term gain for our children
and grandchildren," Parnell, a Republican seeking a second full
term this year, told Reuters.
"We've already demonstrated in the first year that it's
working," he said.
Repeal backers got on the ballot last year with a petition
featuring 50,000 signatures shortly after Parnell signed Senate
Bill 21. They face opposition that has raised close to $15
million compared with their several hundred thousand dollars
that trickled in.
They believe Parnell's law simply enables companies to
harvest profits in Alaska and invest them elsewhere.
"Just giving away money and hoping companies don't take it
out of state, it's not smart policy," said State House Rep. Les
Gara, an Anchorage Democrat. "Parnell says 'here is a gob of
money and you can spend it anywhere you want. We just hope you
spend it here.'"
(Editing by Terry Wade, Gunna Dickson and Tom Hogue)