A tin ear franchise?
Somebody must be selling tin ears to the state at a bulk rate because there sure a lot of them being used by officials.
Take, for instance, the Alaska Gasline Development Corp.’s $50,000 donation to sponsor the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. The corporation’s president, Keith Meyer, told lawmakers the money is part of a larger event to lure potential gas buyers so they can see Alaska united, KTVA reported. (We do not get it either, and wonder why other state trips to Asia have not nailed down buyers.)
All this came to light as the Senate Finance Committee asked pointed questions of the agency about the huge, $55 billion project. Lawmakers are demanding more transparency from the gas line corporation and promised a fight if they do not get it.
Alaska has taken the lead in the massive Alaska LNG Project to build necessary infrastructure and move North Slope gas south through a pipeline to tidewater at Nikiski for shipment to Asian markets. Its partners in the project, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and BP bailed out in December, saying it would not pay off as designed.
The corporation has $102 million in state funding for the project that has not been used yet. AGDC wants to spend it next year for marketing and federal regulatory work. The corporation also wants Alaska to buy ConocoPhillips’ LNG facility in Nikiski, but the purchase money would not be part of the $102 million – and the corporation may ask for that money later.
Meanwhile, Alaska is struggling with a more than $3 billion budget deficit, its reserves are shrinking and lawmakers are talking about cutting Permanent Fund dividends and levying an income tax to help make ends meet.
What are Alaskans supposed to think? They are told the state is in dire straits; that they must take a pay cut in the form of a tax levy and dividend loss; that the end is near. At the same time, the governor is hiring a political consultant, opening offices in Japan and Houston for a gas pipeline that likely will not be built anytime soon and hiring high-price executives. We see lame-duck lawmakers traveling the world. The state, from its actions, seems to have money for just about anything it wants.
We are left to wonder who is selling tin ears. We very much would like a franchise.