The annual State of the State address was given by Gov. Sean Parnell before the state Legislature at the Capitol on Wednesday, emphasizing the importance of increasing oil production on the North Slope.
Parnell began by asking the Legislature to vote to reform oil industry taxes this session to encourage development on the North Slope. He said if lawmakers don't do so, private-sector jobs will continue to head to the Lower 48, along with the money that comes with them.
"The question before us now is not whether we have enough oil reserves to meet our goals," Parnell said. "The question is this: Do we have enough will to give up short-term gains for long term-growth? I believe the answer is yes."
Parnell also brought up the performance scholarship program he signed into law two years ago. He called it a moral obligation that he wants continued, with the help of $400 million set aside from last year.
"Let's create a fund for that money, so that fund's earnings can pay for these scholarships for future generations," Parnell said. "Send our students this unmistakable message: If you keep you end of the bargain in the classroom, we will keep our end of the bargain in this chamber."
After the speech, House Democrats talked about Parnell's position on oil taxes, restating their opposition to his plan and calling it "exploitation" of Alaska's natural resources.
"Our state was founded to make sure Alaskans did get their fair share, and you can go back and read the debates that went into forming our constitution that made it our mineral wealth, not private mineral wealth," Rep. Beth Kerttula (D-Juneau) said.
Senate Democrats chimed in too, saying the governor's plan to reform oil taxes wouldn't work.
"We've got to tie tax relief to more investment; we've got to tie tax relief to specific projects that will put oil in the pipe," said Sen. Hollis French (D-Anchorage).
With Parnell's wishes now on the table, it's up to the Legislature to decide what happens with them during this year's session.
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