JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) -- An effort to let voters decide whether to keep or repeal an oil tax cut can move forward, after Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell approved a referendum application Thursday.
Supporters of the repeal effort now must gather at least 30,169 qualified signatures from across the state by July 13 to get the measure on next year's ballot, Treadwell said. The Division of Elections plans to have petition booklets ready for organizers within a week, division director Gail Fenumiai said in an email.
The Legislature passed a measure earlier this month that would cut taxes for the oil industry as a way to increase production and investment. Supporters of the tax cut, including Gov. Sean Parnell, argued that the state could not stand by and do nothing while production continued to decline. Critics of the bill called it a giveaway to the industry and warned it will be devastating for Alaska's budget.
Pat Lavin, a coordinator for the group "Vote Yes - Repeal the Giveaway," said in an interview that it's unpopular with Alaskans to give up billions of dollars with no guarantees of what the state will see in return. He said his group is planning for a massive signature-gathering effort and is optimistic in its chances.
The fiscal note attached to the oil tax bill said it could cost the state between $4.2 billion and $4.6 billion through 2019, based on a forecast that includes a continued net decline in production and oil prices between $109 and $118 a barrel. The figures do not account for possible increases in production.