Headlamp Extra Edition: Thumbs Up, Double Thumbs Down

Back by popular demand, AK Headlamp is rolling out our memorable Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down Extra Editions that we debuted last legislative session. For today’s rendition, we will be discussing some recent actions and statements made by House Majority Leader Representative Chris Tuck.

Thumbs Up. We have to give Rep. Tuck a thumbs up for putting forth an amendment that would not only impact his own pocket book, but all legislators’ pocket books. Following a move by Rep. Charisse Millett to completely eliminate the $160 daily per diem payments Juneau’s three legislators currently receive, Rep. Tuck put forth an even bolder amendment. His, which was unanimously approved by the House Finance budget subcommittee tasked with reviewing the Legislature’s budget, would go a step further and reduce all non-Juneau legislators’ per diem payments by three-fourths of their current rate.

Non-Juneau legislators receive $218 per day in per diem; which is meant to cover their living expenses while in Juneau for the session. Rep. Tuck’s amendment (found here), incorporated Rep. Millett’s suggestion to eliminate per diem for Juneau legislators.

However, just yesterday House Majority members originally supportive of Tuck’s amendment during the sub-committee process, stopped the amendment from moving forward during the full Finance Committee meeting! Talk about backpedaling! The issue will now be sent to the Legislative Council (made up of House & Senate members). The problem there? Rep. Kito, one of three Juneau legislators & fierce defenders of the per diem payments, is Chair of Legislative Council. Sayonara budget saving measure.  

Double Thumbs Down. On Saturday, Headlamp took time to participate in the Anchorage Caucus, which Rep. Tuck attended with many other Anchorage legislators. During the meeting, Rep. Tuck made a whopper of a claim, stating the last six oil tax changes (in the last 11 years we might add) have benefitted the industry.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Earlier this session AOGA testified and pointed out that of the 6 changes to oil & gas taxes since 2005, 4 represented tax increases, 1 change was both an increase and a decrease in taxes, and 1 change represented a positive change for industry. Don’t just take industry’s word on this issue though. Tax Division Director Ken Alper gave similar testimony as well! Alper pointed out that ELF, ACES, and HB 247 last year were all tax increases, and in his view SB 21 and the Cook Inlet Recovery Act both helped industry.

We also have this piece from 2010 by our friends at Northern Gas Pipelines further disproving Rep. Tuck’s comment, by pointing out how industry, specifically the support industry was reeling under ACES.

Headlamp is astonished that Rep. Tuck, the House Majority leader, could claim that tax increase after tax increase, resulting in declining production rates, less investment, and loss of support sector jobs “benefitted industry.”

Then again, such double speak has been typical operating procedure for those who vote for higher taxes on the resource development industry over and over again.