Pot calling the kettle black

Anchorage Daily Planet - October 2, 2010

It is amusing that Gov. Sean Parnell is criticizing Democrat gubernatorial challenger Ethan Berkowitz for joining other House members in voting eight years ago to support a state income tax as Alaska faced a $1 billion shortfall.

You would think Parnell would be a trifle gun-shy about pointing fingers over tax issues.
There is no doubt Berkowitz should have made a different decision on an income tax, no matter the dire fiscal straits at the time, but Parnell - a governor during times of surplus - has a short memory.

The proposed tax - supported by Democrats and some Republicans - would have brought in up to $250 million. The House also would have increased alcohol taxes and spent Permanent Fund earnings on education. The Senate refused to go along and the state eventually was saved by rising oil prices.

When it comes to taxes, Berkowitz’s sins seem small. The Palin-Parnell administration was hard to beat. Parnell’s mentor, Sarah Palin, foisted off on Alaska the highest marginal oil tax rate in the world, crushing investment, costing jobs, killing exploration - and all at a time when throughput in the trans-Alaska oil pipeline was dropping precipitously. The only entity to flourish because of Palin’s onerous Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share oil tax - with its heavy-handed progressivity - is government. Oh, and Sean Parnell.

When then-Lt. Gov. Parnell took on the job of governor after Palin bailed out halfway through her term to chase celebrity and cash, he did nothing to fix her ACES mess. Instead, he kept her staff on the payroll and assured Alaskans everything was just fine; that ACES was working perfectly. He has done nothing to make Alaska more attractive to the industry that provides 90 percent of the state’s revenue.

In criticizing Berkowitz, Parnell told the state chamber of commerce that when he was a legislator, “We did not reach, as a policy matter, for the tax lever,” the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. “The difference is, I will reach to cut government spending first before imposing new taxes on you.”

Cut government spending? He’s kidding, right? With skyrocketing operating budgets? With an election year capital budget that soared to new heights? With government bloated beyond anything we will be able to support when oil goes south?

Berkowitz, indeed, may have voted in troubled times for an income tax on Alaskans, but Parnell has done nothing to ensure Palin’s oil taxes do not deprive Alaskans of income.

Of the two sins, Parnell’s is the worst.