Legislation to boost taxes on commercial fisheries operating in Alaska, one of many options the state is considering to ease its fiscal crisis, has stalled in the Alaska Legislature’s House Special Committee on Fisheries.
House Bill 251, introduced by the House Rules Committee at the request of Gov. Bill Walker, is so far being held in committee. Rep. Louise Stutes, R- Kodiak, who chairs the committee, has expressed personal reservations about the bill. Stutes noted during a hearing on March 8 that some other industry bills being reviewed by the Legislature appear to be faltering.
“I believe that all resources should pay their fair share, but I don’t want to see the fishing industry be the only one that’s subject to a tax increase,” she said.
Alaska is in a fiscal crisis brought on by a drop in the price of oil, an industry the state has become dependent on for most of its budget.
In public testimony on March 8, the Pacific Seafood Processors Association, Ocean Beauty Seafoods and Icicle Seafoods said they recognize the tough budget situation created by low oil prices, but said passage of new tax bills in their original form would create a significant drag on depressed sectors of Alaska’s economy already weakened by low commodity prices. They asked that if or when those fish taxes are increased, that the Alaska Division of Commercial Fisheries and Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute retain sufficient funds to continue to provide baseline work necessary for their industry to be successful in Alaska.
The committee also received a resolution from commercial fishermen urging the Legislature and Walker administration to analyze cumulative impacts prior to imposing new taxes on the seafood industry. Signers of the resolution included 10 fishing organizations, 10 processors, five aquaculture associations and two individual seafood businesses.