Alaska Legislature Wrestles With Fisheries Taxes

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
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.