Berkowitz's ownership proposal
Anchorage Press - October 13, 2010
Guest op-ed by Ethan Berkowitz
Wally Hickel described Alaska as "The Owner State." That's our legacy and our responsibility. We have an obligation, both moral and constitutional, to develop Alaska's bounty for the maximum benefit of Alaska's people. For too long, we've endured "leaders" who wait for others to take care of us and are content to rest on past achievements and hope that another boom comes our way. That timidity and passivity is dangerous in a changing world—the rest of the globe is moving forward while we stand still. It is time to show initiative and reject complacency. It is time to live up to the best of the Alaskan spirit and move forward boldly as the independent, self-reliant people we can and should be.
That's why, during this campaign, I've introduced a strategic, multi-part plan called "The Alaskan Ownership Stake." These proposals reflect Alaska's unique character and values. They are designed so we can stake a claim and take charge of our future.
Part I—"Own a Piece of the Pipe" allows individual Alaskans, Alaskan businesses and Alaska Native Corporations to invest in a gas pipeline, giving Alaskans an ownership stake in our economic future. This idea comes from the 2004 federal Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline Act, brought forward by Senators Stevens and Murkowski and Congressman Young, and improves the likelihood a pipeline will be built by making us less reliant on Outside interests. It signals the financial markets that we, as Alaskans, are committed to the project, ensures that willing participants reap the benefits of their investment, and gives us a seat at the table when decisions are being made about the pipeline.
Part II—"Lifetime Hunting, Fishing and Trapping Licenses" creates an option that exists in 27 other states, and gives Alaskans the ability to purchase lifetime hunting, fishing and trapping licenses. "Lifetime licenses" recognizes that Alaskans have a close connection to the land and waters of our state, and that our heritage and culture is staked to our fish and game.
Part III—"Open for Business" eliminates taxes on small businesses (non-oil, non-gas, non-mining) making less than $90,000 per year and reduces Alaska's current corporate income tax rate from 9.4 percent down to 4.9 percent, moving us from the 5th highest tax regime to the 8th most competitive tax structure in the United States. In addition, "Open for Business" creates incentives for investment and job creation by offering a series of tax credits. Alaska currently ranks at the bottom of all 50 states for our business climate. "Open for Business" addresses the urgent need to strengthen and diversify our state's economy by making Alaska more attractive, particularly by enhancing opportunities for our state's small businesses.
Part IV—"Restoring Constitutional Integrity" restores accountability in the Governor's office, and reclaims our stake in ethical, transparent government. Part IV proposes three changes to the Executive Branch. First, give the attorney general, Alaska's "Top Cop," the independence to pursue policies and legal actions that are in the best interest of Alaskans. Second, establish an office of legal counsel in the Governor's office to eliminate conflicts of interest with the Department of Law and make it clear that the AG represents the people of the State of Alaska, not the Governor (Alaska is one of only four states without this level of protection). Third, because the Alaska Personnel Board investigates charges against the Executive Branch, insulate its members from intervention by the governor's office, or any other outside political influence, and promote independence in that Board.
In the coming days, I will unveil Part V, the final piece of the Stake. This last part outlines the measures I will put in place that Alaskans can use to hold me accountable as your next governor.
As I have said repeatedly, standing still in a changing world is a recipe for disaster. Alaska has great opportunities, but we have to be proactive to take advantage of them and avoid the economic problems affecting the rest of the country and the world. Acting Governor Sean Parnell has been passive, not proactive, and his failure to move our state forward jeopardizes Alaska's security, economy, and the future we can have for our families, our communities, and our businesses. The Alaskan Ownership Stake offers plans to get Alaska moving, and to break free of the stagnation that characterizes our current acting administration.
Alaskans have much to offer the nation and the world. We can provide the energy to drive this state and country into the future, but success requires foresight, will and leadership. We begin by relying on ourselves—it's the way Alaska has always turned bold ideas into reality.
Please review information about these and other proposals on my website at www.EthanBerkowitz.com.
Ethan Berkowitz is the Democratic candidate in Alaska's gubernatorial race. All candidates for statewide office have been invited to pen op-eds prior to the November 2 election.