Politics & Government

Alaska's gubernatorial candidates differ on oil taxes

Democrat Ethan Berkowitz is running for governor with a proposal for a major overhaul of how the state collects money from oil companies. His idea would jettison the controversial oil tax that his fellow Democrats championed in the Legislature less than three years ago.

But such a radical change is being met with skepticism from Berkowitz's rival in the Aug. 24 Democratic gubernatorial primary, state Sen. Hollis French, and others who question the approach and if it's smart policy to drop the ACES oil tax that takes advantage of today's high oil prices to flood billions of dollars into the state treasury.

Berkowitz, on his campaign website and in editorials he's written, has called for examining a completely new system that would "eliminate ACES entirely and replace it with a field-by-field royalty structure." Royalty is the state's share of the oil pumped out of state-owned ground -- most North Slope oil fields are on state land. Berkowitz proposes the creation of a commission to negotiate with the oil companies over what the state share would be on each field.

The negotiated royalty rate would take into account the economics of each individual field, according to Berkowitz, offering more flexibility.

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