Note from Rep. Les Gara: Hiring Non-Alaskans in the Oil Patch Hearing Thursday & Lots More

Well, I’ve learned a lot this summer, and Thursday we can all learn more – on why the oil industry is hiring so many outside workers in place of Alaskans. That hearing will take place at the Legislative Information Office, from 1:30 to 3:30. Public testimony will be allowed from 5:30 to 7:30. Here’s what we know. Nearly 50% of Alaska’s North Slope workers since 2009 have been outsiders. On the other hand, employment in Alaska’s oil and gas industry is at an all-time high – 13,600 this year, compared to 10,100 when we had a low oil production tax under the old ELF system. So – those fancy TV ads saying we need to reduce oil taxes because we’re losing North Slope employment leave out a fact. Well, a few. That employment is up. But Outsiders are taking jobs Alaskans should get. Lowering oil taxes, when the industry is hiring more non-Alaskans, is one of those bad policy non sequiturs.

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Note from Rep. Les Gara: Oil Company “Liar Liar” Accusations: Spin, Attack on Sen. French and Yours Truly, Make Truth a Casualty

This job is hard sometimes. It becomes harder when you have to waste your time researching facts that others – in this case an oil company lobbying group – tell half-truths about to get the law changed in their $$$$ favor. Shocking that those who shill for multinational foreign corporations would not tell you the whole truth in an effort to take your money (when you lose a fair share for Alaska’s oil the next demand will be for an income tax or a cut in your Permanent Fund Dividend). Nobody likes being called a liar by well-funded special interests.

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Note from Rep. Gara: In-State Gas: Expensive and Not Yet Time to Pull Plug on Potentially Cheaper, Better Options

Do you want to be bound, by contract, to pay natural gas prices that are double what is paid in the Lower 48 – for the next 20 or 30 years? How’s that for attracting business to Alaska? How’s that for your pocketbook? The folks who held the press conference on Tuesday didn’t mention any of that, did they? Unfortunately, the gasline debate has devolved into competing sound bites. Those pushing the project want you to think the lights will go out tomorrow if you don’t do what they propose. It’s bad policy to scare people into ill-advised projects. Frankly, the sound bites on all sides are pretty trite – because this issue is too difficult to discuss in accurate sound bites.

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Note from Rep. Gara: Special Edition: Goods and Bads of Yesterday’s Budget Vetoes

I hate writing letters two days in a row. But important things have happened two days in a row.

I thought you’d like a rundown of the Governor’s veto decisions. First, let me say that I saw unjustified pork in some of the projects, and thought the budget was too big, so I voted against it. I voted against a $3.2 billion budget, because we have priority services and a need for savings. On the other hand, I can’t fault many of those who voted for the budget. It included some important energy projects to reduce energy costs – projects I defended publicly. It included home energy efficiency upgrade funds (which I voted for as an amendment), and some other priorities I helped get in the budget. So I’d say this: The budget, in my mind, was too big. I agree with the Governor there. But I would have chosen different projects to veto.

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Note from Rep. Gara: Lucy & The Football, Again: Special Session Failure Will Hurt Alaskans.

I’m not a big fan of failure, and not a big fan of spending money on wasted Special Sessions. I’ve now voted three times, including yesterday, to pass the Coastal Zone Management bill that passed the Bi-Partisan Senate Monday, but surprisingly failed by three votes in the House yesterday. Failure to pass the bill gave away a big piece of state sovereignty to the federal government.

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Note from Rep. Gara: Pre-Saturday Rapture?!?!, Post-Unspecial Session Newsletter

You were probably as surprised as I was to wake up and find out there’s a guy in Florida who says the rapture will be tomorrow. I guess I always thought I’d get more notice before the end of the world.

I owe you a post-session e-news, and given what might happen tomorrow, I don’t think I have any more time to procrastinate on this. Though it would be nice to get more notice next time if this guy is wrong, like he was in 1994. I’d like to have my house and chores in order before an apocalypse. But I guess, so would everyone else.

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