ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Critics of an oil-industry tax cut handed a petition with 50,000 signatures to Alaska state officials on Saturday, more than enough to force a referendum that would overturn a new oil tax law.
The bill, approved by the legislature three months ago, replaces taxes tracking oil prices with a cap on tax at 35 percent of net profits. Expectations for the new system were for a likely tax range from about 14 percent to about 20 percent.
“This bill that they passed is against the interests of Alaska,” Vic Fischer, a former state senator and one of two surviving authors of the Alaska constitution, told a group of about 50 banner-waving tax-cut opponents gathered outside government offices in Anchorage.
Referendum supporters, organized in a group called “Vote Yes - Repeal the Giveaway”, needed 30,169 signatures of registered voters - 10 percent of the total turnout in the last statewide election - to qualify their measure for the 2014 ballot.
Leading oil producers in Alaska include BP Plc, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil Corp.
Governor Sean Parnell, sponsor of the new tax, argued that steep cuts in oil taxes were needed to lure industry investment away from North Dakota and other booming oil-producing areas. He dubbed the bill the “More Alaska Production Act”.
Opponents say the tax cuts are too steep, will cost the state $4.5 billion in lost revenues over five years, and do nothing to reverse North Slope production declines that they say are inevitable as the area’s main oil fields age.
Reporting by Yereth Rosen; Additional reporting by Braden Reddall in San Francisco; Editing by Louise Ireland