A message from the Executive Director:
2018 has kicked off with a bang! The first quarter each year is always hectic for Alaska’s business community, with 2018 being no exception.
To set the stage for AMA’s priority issues on the state level, AMA’s State Oversight Committee spent most of December and early January debating and adopting policy positions for inclusion in our annual Issues of Concern document. This document is extremely important for AMA to communicate our priorities to the Legislature, Walker/ Mallott Administration and the general public. These are our issues and they are also your issues. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with them and share them in your conversations about what policies promote your business and Alaska’s mining industry.
Clearly, our state continues to face significant fiscal challenges with a revenue deficit compared to unsustainable spending. Our lawmakers appear no closer to implementing a long-term plan that addresses Alaska’s budget.
This year, AMA will yet again stress the importance of a plan, immediately, that ensures responsible State spending at a sustainable level, with immediate budget reductions necessary, and revenues coming from use of Permanent Fund earnings and broad-based taxes.
I am often asked why Alaska’s mining industry is so concerned with a stable State budget.
The first and obvious answer is that we are Alaskans, and everyone living in our state has a vested interest in the fiscal operations of our state government.
But there are also particular implications to our industry: companies contemplating investment in the exploration and development of Alaska’s mineral deposits are closely watching the management of Alaska’s budget, evaluating whether Alaska is a stable jurisdiction where investments have a beneficial rate of return. Will their investment meet a fiscal regime that provides certainty to investors? Or will these investors see proposals to change total government take on the mine, collect income from the mine’s employees, and create new, unforeseen policies that sharply decrease the return on investment?
This doesn’t stop with just our industry; it is critical to any type of investment in our state’s economy. We must have our fiscal house to grow the industries that run Alaska’s economy.
The Legislature is now in Session, and so are we. Our State Oversight Committee has begun meeting weekly to track what is currently four pages of active Legislation in bills and resolutions and to discuss AMA’s responses and actions. In addition to budget proposals, we have several pieces of Legislation either remaining from the first session or recently introduced, including:
• the requirement of Legislative approval of a permitted metal mine in Bristol Bay;
• proposals of game reserves, refuges, and parks;
• a resolution urging for involvement in Transboundary mining issues;
• legislation revising heavy vehicle warranties for consumers;
• prescriptions for vehicle loads of sand and gravel; and
• revisions to the Title 16 fish habitat law.
HB199 proposes to elevate fish protection above any other resource. We don’t agree that our resources are mutually exclusive and we don’t agree that fish habitat is not properly protected and enhanced in our State.
On a similar vein, HB199’s first version had many similarities to the current Ballot Initiative 17FHS2, submitted last summer and denied by the State of Alaska, only to be upheld by Alaska Superior Court. AMA has joined with our partners in the business community to form Stand for Alaska, a ballot group to educate the public about the initiative.
SfA has hired Kati Capozzi, whom many of you may know from the Resource Development Council, as its Campaign Manager and hired Willis Lyford and Brilliant Media as the communications firm to convey the important information regarding the initiative. The campaign is in its early stages, but I ask that you watch for communications from AMA and others to follow them on social media and become engaged with the facts on this damaging proposal.
On a much more pleasant note, I have recently returned from the Roundup Convention held by the Association of Mineral Exploration of British Columbia (AME-BC). The Convention was a breath of fresh air regarding mining exploration in North America. AMA and its members hosted another fantastic Alaska Night reception, and attendees said that it was “the best event yet.” It was a MAJOR success, with high attendance, an incredibly positive vibe from the optimism in the exploration community and reuniting with old friends.
Next up is our Fairbanks Convention. Please see extensive information in this issue about everything happening March 2631 at the Carlson Center and make plans now to join us! I look forward to reporting the success of that event as well.