By SUZANNE DOWNING
To the rest of America, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is a conservative standard-bearer, and now that she’s running for Congress, they may think she’s a shoo-in.
But for Alaskans, it’s “not so fast.” We lived through her time in office, and we’ve not recovered.
Alaskans remember when she was governor and the damage she did to the state’s economy when she jacked up the taxes on oil so high that the oil companies stopped seriously exploring here and took their investment to the shale fields in the Lower 48.
A progressive tax called ACES, or “Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share,” was such a disaster for the state that it was undone under the governor who followed Palin, conservative Republican Sean Parnell.
Parnell spent a good deal of political capital undoing that tax, which was a 90 percent government take when oil prices were high.
Palin taxed and spent so much on government that it took everything Parnell had to try to land the spending plane when he came into office in 2009. She left a combination of a terrible tax scheme and high government spending.
Palin didn’t like the undoing of her onerous tax and spending programs, which she had crafted with the help of legislative Democrats.
When Parnell, who had been her lieutenant governor, ran for re-election as governor 2014, five years after Palin quit office, Palin stabbed Parnell in the back and endorsed his opponent, Bill Walker, the Democratic Party’s chosen candidate. Walker won — and in his four years continued to beat up the oil industry in Alaska. Walker wanted higher oil taxes – he just could not get them through the Legislature.
Walker, who is now known in Alaska as “China Bill,” also nearly sold off Alaska’s North Slope gas assets to China during his tenure, and was shown the door by voters four years later after he spectacularly melted down during the final weeks of his campaign and quit when the going got tough — just like Palin did.
Alaska’s economy has never been the same since those ACES days of “equitable” share. What could have been a renaissance of exploration and oil that would have helped America stave off today’s current oil shortage and high gas prices instead turned into an economic malaise, only worsened by the Biden Administration.
If wells could have been economically drilled under Governors Palin and Walker, the Biden reign of economic disaster on Alaska would have been softened by leases that would be well under way by now.
ACES was also a bad tax because it actually incentivized spending on anything but oil production. There were tax credits for capital spending on things like runways, and companies did make those kinds of investments. They just didn’t drill during ACES.
The tax that replaced it, Senate Bill 21, incentivized production and flattened the progressive tax. But by then, the Palin-Democrats’ damage was done.
Democrats? Yes. ACES was a product of Democrats who controlled the Legislature, and the Republican governor who just wanted to be loved, and thus signed the legislation without fully understanding what she was doing.
As governor, Palin put Pat Galvin in charge as the Commissioner of Revenue. He was a tax-and-spend Democrat whose wife, Alyse Galvin, later ran against Congressman Don Young in 2018 and again in 2020. A no-party candidate, she ran with the support of the Alaska Democratic Party, just like the fake-independent Walker had run for governor with the full support of the Democratic Party.
These were Palin’s people: Walker, Galvin, and Democrat legislators who supported socialistic policies that led to an oil decline of 6-8 percent a year.
Palin also gave $500 million to a Canadian company for a gasline that never materialized. She told everyone in America that Alaska was building a gasline. That gasline is still a pipe dream.
This congressional race is not a reality TV show. Alaskans have watched their economy suffer under the Palin and Walker regimes, and many are wiser than we were when we fell for the glamorous mayor of Wasilla with the six-inch heels who said, “Drill, baby, drill,” but made it impossible to drill.
But Alaska also sees a 6 percent turnover in its population every year. That means there are hundreds of thousands living in Alaska that have no idea about the true history of Sarah Palin. They only know the name from reality TV and the fact that their relatives in the Lower 48 ask them if they’ve ever met her.
With Palin’s fundraising ability, her innate marketing savvy, and her endorsement from Donald Trump, she’s a formidable candidate for Congress. But she still has a lot of explaining to do to Alaskans who were here more than a decade ago and who rightfully ask, “Haven’t you done enough, already?”
Suzanne Downing is the publisher of Must Read Alaska.