Politics & Government

Alaska's Democratic gubernatorial candidates split on taxes, gas pipeline

The candidates competing for the Democratic nomination for governor agree on a lot of things, especially that Alaska isn't doing enough about renewable energy and that they consider Republican Gov. Sean Parnell a dud. For months they acted as though they weren't running against each other and only against Parnell.

But Ethan Berkowitz's proposal to swap out Alaska's oil tax has put some fire into the race. Berkowitz, a former state representative from Anchorage, talks about it as a piece of an idea that involves putting all of Alaska's oil revenue into the Permanent Fund, or a new account like it, and funding state services with money from that. He says it's to bring stability and keep the Legislature from wasting money on pork projects.

His opponent, state Sen. Hollis French, also of Anchorage, calls it a risky, complex scheme to dump a tax that takes advantage of today's high oil prices to provide billions of dollars to the state. He describes it as an attack on a major bipartisan achievement passed in 2007, and says Berkowitz would give too much power to the oil companies.

Berkowitz doesn't appear overly fearful of losing to French in the Aug. 24 primary. He told The Associated Press he wouldn't buy television ads before the primary. Berkowitz didn't want to discuss that when asked by the Daily News last week, saying "there are other things that we're doing" to win the primary, and that questions about tactics should go instead to his campaign manager.

Berkowitz's fundraising appeals and arguments on the campaign trail focus on Parnell, not French. His campaign sent supporters an e-mail Aug. 2 saying "all the polling shows us with a huge lead," but that he needs a strong showing in the primary to send Parnell a message.

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