Let’s vote on the PFD

With state government on track to shut down July 1 at the beginning of the new fiscal year if no operating and capital budgets are approved, the looming battles over the Permanent Fund dividend take on a life of their own.

There will be fireworks in the coming days and weeks over the dividend’s amount, how it is figured and whether it should be protected by the state constitution.

Much of the angst over the dividend springs from actions by former Gov. Bill Walker in 2016 and the Legislature in the two following years that cut the annual payout by about half. What they did was bad enough; how they did it, even worse. They ignored the traditional method of calculating the dividend that is set in law, and made the amount paid to Alaskans subject to political whim, endangering the payouts in the future.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy says he wants a dividend figured by the traditional method included in the operating budget for the next fiscal year. That would amount to about $3,000 for each and every Alaskan. He has offered a constitutional amendment that, if approved, would protect the traditional calculation from lawmakers shaking the bushes in the future for quick cash.

He proposed a budget earlier this year containing about $1.6 billion in spending cuts and money juggling that would have allowed a full traditionally figured dividend this year. That budget is unlikely to survive intact for a variety of good reasons.

It seems to us that no matter what the Legislature and governor want – or do – concerning the Permanent Fund dividend, not everybody is going to be happy. In the end, it boils down to a fight between government-first and Alaskans’-wallets-first forces. The question? Which is more important, money for government or for our bank accounts?

There are, it turns out, good arguments on either side, but proponents of various fixes are far enough apart that reaching consensus on any single solution is going to be almost impossible. In the interim they are not paying much attention to ordinary Alaskans. The politicians should be listening to what we all think.

There may be a way to answer all the questions about the dividend once and for all. Pay the traditionally calculated dividend this year, even though it may hurt – a lot. Then, let Alaskans’ vote on enshrining the traditional formula in the constitution.

If they vote “no,” the dividend in the future will be decided by lawmakers. If “yes,” then by the traditional formula.

The Permanent Fund dividend affects every Alaskan and every Alaskan household in some fashion. Alaskans should decide its future.

5 Responses to Let’s vote on the PFD

  1. paula zimmerman May 20, 2019 at 11:10 am

    Your recommended solution makes entirely too much sense for our elected Legislators to consider.

  2. Bret Hodges May 20, 2019 at 12:33 pm

    the real question should be , who do you trust more ??? . a politician or yourself. stick with the original formula. revenue can be generated through other means. they just want it because its there and easy to fleece apparently

  3. Jeff Gavazza May 20, 2019 at 6:02 pm

    The Governor came through Tok a while back and was very sincere in his explanation of how the State got to where it is now. He included his plan for correcting the problem. Why does the Legislature not see that the Gov.’s plan makes the most sense, especially when it comes to the dividend and state spending. At least my State Representative and State Senator are onboard with Dunleavy’s “Permanent Fiscal Plan.”
    I would suggest anyone who’s concerned about where their State Legislators stand, is to contact them and ask them specifically. You might be surprised!

  4. Randy S. Griffin Fairbanks Alaska May 22, 2019 at 7:22 am

    It would be a bad idea to let the people vote on enshrining the PFD cash payment program into the Alaska constitution. This is because a majority of the people would very likely vote to approve it.

    This is similar to having a direct democracy rather than a constitutional representative republic. In a direct democracy people are likely to vote themselves a living on the backs of working people. A direct democracy will likely turn into a mobocracy which will ultimately cave in on itself.

    An enshrinement of the PFD into the Alaska constitution would destroy Alaska as we know it.

    Fortunately, we are a constitutional representative republic, and our constitutional safeguards say that it takes a 2/3 vote of each house of the legislature to bring forth a constitutional amendment, that could then be approved by a simple majority vote of the citizens.

    Hopefully that safety barrier will hold, so that Alaska will be saved from destruction. However, something could wrong, especially considering the fact that we currently have a governor who is pushing for such an amendment. It is possible that good sense in the legislature could crumble to such extent as to allow the floodgates to be breached.

  5. Ed Martin Jr May 25, 2019 at 9:54 am

    Randy ” This is because a majority of the people would very likely vote to approve it.” That’s exactly why the PF was created .. whats your argument there.. it shouldn’t exist… DUMB totally!


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