First, it was Senate President Cathy Giessel and her merry band of Permanent Fund dividend pirates on the hunt for ways to put government spending ahead of Alaskans’ receiving their annual piece of Alaska’s oil riches.
Now, it is Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz looking for a piece of the dividend pie at Alaskans’ expense.
As Anchorage pushes hard for a sales tax of some sort to prop up spending, Berkowitz is suggesting a “community dividend” that would go directly from the dividend pool to communities as a way to replace waning state revenue-sharing.
He says such a dividend would allow the state to shift more services to local governments. The split as he sees it? Berkowitz suggests 45 percent of the structured draw from the Alaska Permanent Fund should go to dividends, with another 45 percent going to state government, and 10 percent — or about $300 million — going to his proposed “community dividend.”
The 1982 statute laying out how the dividend is to be calculated is clear. It gives half the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve for dividends. Former Gov. Bill Walker ignored the law and the calculation, as have legislatures in the past few years. The result? Alaskans have gotten about the half the dividend amount they should have.
Now, here is another government gambit to put local spending ahead of Alaskans when it comes to the dividends. Enough. The dividend was not designed to pump money into government coffers. It was meant for Alaskans as a way of building a constituency to protect the Permanent Fund corpus from greedy politicians.
Its purpose was clear from Day One, even if Giessel, Berkowitz, et al., do not seem to get it.