Mackie Plan, anyone?
Are you tired of seeing the Permanent Fund dividend being used as a blunt instrument in legislative street fights? Are you weary of watching sticky-fingered pols raking off half your dividend to support a government that simply is too large? Are you sick of the continual whining and fighting?
It is time to resurrect the Mackie Plan.
For the last three years, you lost more than half your potential dividends. First, former Gov. Bill Walker vetoed half of your dividend in 2016. Then, the Legislature grabbed about half in each of the past two years. Now, despite a 1982 law specifying how the dividend is to be calculated, lawmakers are trying to decide how much you will get this year – and in years to come.
Why not forge a deal that makes everyone happy? The icing on the cake? You could walk away with about $45,000. There is a way.
Then-Craig Republican lawmaker and majority leader Sen. Jerry Mackie in 2000 came up with an ingenious plan.
Alaska, then as now, was sinking in a sea of red ink caused by low oil prices, and lawmakers were desperate to use the Permanent Fund to close the gap rather than cut government. But they feared touching the pot of money, which had become Alaska’s political third rail.
A Sept. 14, 1999, advisory vote confirmed their worst fears and turned backbones to jelly when 84 percent of Alaskans marched to the polls and rejected a proposal to use fund earnings to help pay for government.
Mackie’s plan was contained on a Senate joint resolution that would have become a constitutional amendment requiring two-thirds approval of the Legislature, along with voters’ approval. It would have handed about $14 billion from the then-$27.5 billion fund to Alaska residents.
What would have been left, $12 billion to $14 billion, would have helped pay for state government.
Under the plan, each resident would have pocketed about $25,000, the dividend program would have ended and the rest of the Permanent Fund would have been managed by the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. for government.
“This is probably the only way, in my mind, that the people are going to accept any use of the fund,” Mackie said at the time.
There were long and heated discussions, but, alas, the Mackie Plan sank into obscurity.
That was then; this is now. With today’s fund at a healthy $65 billion, every man, woman and child who is a resident of Alaska would get a check for about $45,000 under that plan, and more than $30 billion still would remain available for government operations.
Lawmakers of late have been telling Alaskans they need half their dividend for government. If they do, indeed, truly need half, let us just get it over with. Give Alaskans their half in one fell swoop. Anybody opposing the plan is admitting they want to, over time, increase the amount going to government while squeezing the dividend to zero.
To head that off, dust off the Mackie Plan and let Alaskans vote. It would end the Permanent Fund dividends and fights over their amounts, provide ample money for government and give each Alaskan a healthy nest egg.
It is a win-win.