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Alaska Raises Tax On Oil Profits To 25%

Alaska's legislature on Friday approved a bill that imposes a 25 percent tax on the net profits of oil companies operating in the state, raising the tax from the current rate of 22.5 percent.

The tax could bring in an additional $1.5 billion annually to the state's treasury, depending on market oil prices.

It was the second tax change in as many years, but Republican Gov. Sarah Palin said current law was tainted by a federal corruption probe tied to the tax and because it didn't earn as much as projected.

"There is no need now to come back next year to change anything," she said. "We want to send that message to industry: we're glad you're here; we want to see revitalization here in our industries here in Alaska and we don't believe there is a need to come back and revisit it."

The oil industry, led by BP PLC, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil Corp., however warned that the new tax format will discourage future investment at a time when North Slope production sits at a 6 percent annual decline.

Doug Suttles, president of BP Exploration Alaska Inc., said in a prepared statement that he hopes lawmakers don't lose sight of the prospective fallout of the tax hike.

"I can only hope that once the impact of this legislation is clear, the administration and the legislature will revisit the issue," he said.

House and Senate Democrats hailed the bill as a chance for the state to claim a share of its mineral wealth.

"This is the time where the state takes back its sovereignty," said Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage. "This is the time where we say we get our fair share. This bill does all of those things, and does nothing to chill investment."

Palin called the special session to consider the tax increase.

House Speaker John Harris, a Valdez Republican who voted in favor of the bill, said time will tell just how successful it is.

"We will need billions of dollars of investment to keep our production up, so I am hopeful the governor has not made a serious mistake with this legislation," he said. "But we won't really know for sure for a couple of years."

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