Alaska Legislature Wrestles With Fisheries Taxes

Legislation to boost taxes on commercial fisheries operating
in Alaska is now before the state’s special House 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
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.