Berkowitz sounds like Republican in this race

Anchorage Daily News - September 25, 2010

Ethan Berkowitz is the biggest surprise in this gubernatorial election campaign. He does not even sound like a pesky Democrat when he's espousing his "Alaskan Ownership Stake" idea, which has left Gov. Sean 'Mr. Quo' Parnell in the dust.

Our tax-and-spend chief executive, head of an administration where new ideas go to die, appears content to play rope-a-dope on the political sidelines rather than twist Berkowitz's tail. It's the same strategy, the same cover-up defense, he adopted in the primary election. Nothing ventured, nothing lost, but it may not pay off this time. Berkowitz, it seems, is determined to be more Republican than the governor.

The Parnell administration, the lifeless spawn of Demi-Gov. Sarah Palin, too often plays it safe. It has put not a new drop of oil in the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, which is running two-thirds empty, and it has done nothing to fix Palin's onerous Alaska's Clear and Equitable Share oil tax. Jobs are being lost, investment is off, exploration is down, oil production is dwindling and we have about five years before Alaska tanks.

Parnell represents more of the same; Berkowitz has a hatful of ideas.

The first phase of Berkowitz's "Stake" would give Alaskans a chance to invest their Permanent Fund dividends in a natural gas pipeline. Parnell finally got around to blasting Berkowitz's plan, saying it would cost 2,000 jobs and wreak economic havoc -- only to stub his toe.

Parnell's conclusion was based on a paper by Scott Goldsmith, a University of Alaska Anchorage Institute of Social and Economic Research economics professor. Goldsmith quickly said Parnell's analysis was wrong.

That was bad; it gets worse. There was this painful nugget in a Parnell news release about Berkowitz's PFD gas line idea -- and then on his campaign website:

"The real fact is that Alaskans are not willing to trade their permanent fund dividend checks and 2,000 Alaskan jobs for the potential return on a pipeline project without a buyer, seller, shipper, or concrete plan,"

Parnell said.

Read that again, the part about "a pipeline project without a buyer, seller, shipper, or concrete plan."

No kidding. It is crystal clear now why Parnell has been dodgy about releasing to Alaskans results from the recent TransCanada-ExxonMobil open season under Palin's sorry Alaska Gasline Inducement Act. Parnell, for reasons then incomprehensible -- how could he tell us AGIA failed? -- decided to keep the results secret until after the election.

The second Berkowitz offering would allow Alaskans to buy lifetime hunting, fishing and trapping licenses. What's not to like? It's a great idea, one that should have come from a Republican. Twenty-seven states have some form of such a license, why not Alaska? Where are the Republicans with ideas? Where was Parnell?

The third piece that screams, "Ich bin ein Republicaner," the one that should make Parnell nuts, would cut corporate income taxes -- among the nation's highest -- and wipe out the tax on businesses making less than $90,000 in annual profits.

The proposal would reduce to 4.9 percent the 9.4 percent tax bracket for those making more than $90,000. The catch? It would not apply to oil, gas, mining or fishing. It would cost the state's $5 billion operating budget about $38.4 million in lost revenue, Berkowitz says.

But he says the state could ease the loss with tax credits to entice businesses to Alaska. How Republican can a guy get?

Parnell's campaign counters that their guy has done a lot: cruise ship head tax cuts; natural gas credits; $100 million in state maintenance projects; and boatloads of capital spending. Frankly, all that is as sexy as an old sock.

Berkowitz, it seems, is determined to be more Republican than the governor. Being unable to run my own life, I'm loath to give advice, but Parnell's guys need to generate sparks or Alaska will end up with a Republicrat at the helm. Take a few days, gin up some ideas, new ideas, bold ideas, good ideas. Sound like Republicans.

Parnell should be concerned. The election is weeks off, and there is this on the Berkowitz website: "Additional components of The Alaskan Ownership Stake will be unveiled over the coming weeks."

For Parnell, how can that be good news?