A measure in the House would move $12 billion of the roughly $18 billion now in the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve into the corpus of the $65 billion fund. A Senate bill would move $8 billion.
The idea, apparently, is to make the money unavailable for easy spending and force a quicker compromise on how much to spend on Permanent Fund dividends and state government operations.
Money in the Earnings Reserve can be appropriated by simple majority vote. Withdrawing money from the Permanent Fund requires a vote of the people.
Arguably, shifting most of the earnings into the fund is a very questionable idea. It reduces the amount of money easily available in a state subject to natural disasters, stock and oil market fluctuations and a host of other threats that might require additional money in any one year.
It also reduces the amount of money available for spending and dividends, hastening the day when it will come down to roads, schools and health care or dividends. Tax proponents then will push for a state income or sales tax, or both, to provide government with a guaranteed, and ever-growing, flow of cash. We are out of money, they will say.
But what strikes us is this: Lawmakers, in essence, are moving to protect the Earnings Reserve from themselves. It turns out they do not trust each other any more than we trust them.