Oil-powered politics cheats Alaskans
There is real good in the able work of the oilfield workforce, which keeps their product from fouling the environment, so it can produce revenue. The worst part emanating from big oil headquarters is buying politicians. Not long ago, several Alaska legislators went to prison for taking bribes in exchange for favors that saved big oil many billions of dollars in the purchase price of petroleum from state lands. And governors and legislators followed that up by feeding the oilies bonuses for trying to find oil, and $8 per barrel credits for production. The results threaten funding for state services.
Gov. Jay Hammond, an inventor of the Alaska Permanent Fund and the dividend, called out the industry for breaking the bargain made for shares of profits. One-third was agreed to be Alaska’s share but they never paid that much. There have been many more billions for them, and less for us.
Big oil has consistent success lobbying for what remains of Alaskans’ share. The pay into the permanent fund was reckoned at only 11.3% by early Fund CEO, Dave Rose — far from the already reduced 25% in state law. Why? Because the oil side knows that using the dough for running government, as opposed to increasing the permanent fund, keeps that wolf from their door. And it’s the same thing they feel like now, when it comes to the PFD. Whatever is kept from going directly to Alaskans benefits big oil as payments of credits and bonuses. Royalties, the price the state charges for providing raw petroleum from state land, are kept low. Corporate tax rates are kept down. The industry has not done this just to us but to every place it operates. It just does better here than in other places.
This session, the Senate Rules Committee introduced Senate Bill 114, now being considered by the Finance Committee. We should ask our representatives to support it. One change it makes is to reduce per barrel credits from $8 to $5. We could be collecting another half billion a year — or a billion if we stop giving credits altogether. And it would eliminate the unique freedom from corporate income taxes enjoyed by Hilcorp. This privilege given to one oil company loses us another $100 million every year.
For all the years since statehood, Alaska has greeted the oil industry with open arms, with love and affection. But the oil industry has not treated us the same way. Now they have come for the PFD and the permanent fund itself. Of course they want to use dividend dollars for state services. Otherwise they fear our lawmakers could raise the oil industry share back to the original agreed one-third. The biggest threat to our permanent fund and us, its shareholders, comes from oil corporations taking from our fair share for their owners.
Raise the base student allocation
As a retired teacher in Alaska and as a parent and grandparent, I would like to speak up for increasing the BSA (base student allocation) for our students.
It is not fair to the coming generation to keep cutting back on education funding, which is what has been happening for the last five years or more. Because the BSA has remained the same for these years and inflation is now 15%, school districts now have less money to educate our children.
That would be bad enough, but COVID has also been a major factor. During COVID, education was more difficult due to school closures, students and staff being sick, changes back and forth from in-class to remote learning. Many students lost days of school, and especially for the K-3 students; this had a significant impact overall. I believe our school district did the best job they could, but the result was many students struggling to read and do math and are behind grade level.
Schools need to help the students who are behind, but they need sufficient funds to do so. As quickly as possible, those students need help to get back up to grade level in reading and math (other subjects, too). The overall goal is that all our students are successful in their education and will graduate with the skills and knowledge for a productive life.
Right now we need to raise the basic student allocation for our students.
Flying high thanks to The Homer Foundation
The Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program in Homer has deep gratitude for The Homer Foundation‘s recent grant to provide rocketry project kits. Supporting STEM goals for public and home-schools, this project introduced cadets to the fundamentals of aviation technology, and invited them to work as teams to build and launch complex rockets.
Inspiring a love of aviation is one of the hallmarks of Civil Air Patrol, the volunteer wing of the United States Air Force. The Cadet Program also focuses on leadership, physical education, emergency services and safety, as well as character building. Complementing the Cadet-led formal instruction, the rocketry project was a huge success, and the completed rockets will continue to be used over time as new members join.
CAP would like to formally thank The Homer Foundation for its generosity and critical support.
Laurie Gentle, communications officer and volunteer,
Civil Air Patrol
STEAM and roofs — Education funding is critical
Is education just reading, writing, math and science? Or is it also important kids learn how to work in groups, problem-solve disagreements, cultivate creativity, understand basic civics and the importance of community involvement? And is the quality of education affected in a school building that’s falling down around them?
Two letters in last week’s issue discussed funding education. One thinks the funding is a waste, it goes to the top and not the students, and it won’t improve test scores. Another notes adding arts to math and science is highly important as it teaches kids all those great things that being human requires so we don’t express our emotions through violence or other negative means. I would add to the STEAM a C for civics knowledge. STEAMC.
Our high school roof is caving as its over 30 years old; Kachemak Selo needs a school! If there is no repair funding, will the kids still have a quality education sitting in damp leaking spaces? If the students to teacher ratio increases? If the pool closes and arts programs are canceled? If sports get canceled? If constantly changing computer technology doesn’t get upgraded?
I believe the majority are willing to invest in education, invest in the future. Fully funding public education will not always show concrete test score returns but like Ireland Styvar notes, it will cultivate healthy success in adulthood. This is our responsibility. Public education affects each of us and is one of the most important things in this country we need to support.
Grateful for support for the arts
Recently the students of West Homer Elementary were fortunate to host Homer artist Deland Anderson for an Artist in Schools residency. During his time there Deland taught the “ditdot” style of painting with sticks on rigid panels and worked with over 220 students, creating numerous dip-dot art pieces. Each child created five art paintings and was able to choose a piece to share in our school’s annual Art Walk.
Throughout the residency, Deland guided the students to learn important life skills as they made their paintings. Making these paintings was a perfect opportunity for students to let their creativity shine. While Deland maintained a strong focus on the creative process, he also taught and encouraged other valuable skills such as persistence, accepting mistakes and vulnerability.
Without the support of the Alaska State Council of the Arts, Rasmuson Foundation, Bunnell Street Arts Center, and Artist in Schools, community programs such as these would not be possible.
On behalf of the students and staff of West Homer Elementary School, we are truly grateful for these opportunities that broaden our experiences and enrich our lives. Thank you!
West Homer Elementary
A Bad Bet
Harbors are expensive, but not nearly expensive as harbor repairs. We need look no further south than Kodiak, whose dilapidated moorage requires a $40,000,000 dollar repair. In Anchorage after an expensive failure of the first port rehab (coping with mudflats, 40-foot tides, 90-knot williwaws, sheet ice pounding and corrosion — the silent biggest threat of metal structures in seawater) plans call for spending another $2.200,000,000. Billions are big numbers, but to bring it down to bite size pieces. let’s put it in taxpayer terms. Six thousand taxpayers in the Kodiak borough give the average taxpayer a $7,000 mouthful, versus the $10,000 every man, woman and child in Anchorage.
The truth is harbors are so expensive that a community wouldn’t borrow money if they alone paid for them. It’s state grants and federal funding that provides the seed money for what later appears to be a huge weed in the city budget. The harbors in Anchorage and Kodiak are the biggest items in both capital budgets.
Counting on the government (both state and federal) to back your bet is done frequently; it’s called politics and occurs daily. The port in Anchorage has clout, they have lots of representation in Juneau and 90% of the groceries and goods coming into the state pass through that port. We have the president of the Senate, Gary Stevens, a key player in any legislation, but the chances he’ll put Homer harbor expansion before Kodiak dock repair aren’t big. He’s 81 and betting he’ll be around when Homer harbor needs repair are slim. Vance is vapidly venting about “rigged choice voting” and can’t get money for an asbestos-choked school demolition. In short, counting on future state funds is a lame bet.
Look where we’re living. (It’s gorgeous isn’t it?) We’re talking about pounding steel pylons into salt water and mud to hold against 40-knot winds, 20-foot tides, raging surf with eight story cruise ships tied to the dock. And that doesn’t even take in the God factor — 8.4 earthquakes which caused the spit to subside 6 feet, the road (down which all repair must travel) to wash out, tsunamis whose threat sounds about every third moon, volcanoes spewing ash, sea levels rising … It makes ice floes seem like pesky cubes in your port. God we must be crazy to live here — but not crazy enough to sign on for a payment plan for port repairs.
I’ve made many a risky bet in my life, but I make it a policy not to bet against God. The seawall was a bad bet (my neighbors are still paying four times my property taxes). The Spit Road alone is an expensive bet, but to compound it by having a pricey port at the end is crazy. Like any good Republican, be aware of what payment plans you sign up for.
And don’t make big bets against the Big Man.
The letter from Charlie Franz needs a little response. He has nicely quoted exactly what Bob Shavelson warned us about in the April 13 issue of the Homer News.
Bob explained how a group that has gone national is working to destroy public education with blatant misinformation. Sadly, our representative buys into this misinformation and will not support funding for education.
It is time for us, her constituents to let her know we want education funded as proposed by the Senate and she needs to support our views.