With Alaska's higher costs, PFDs won't go far

Associated PressSeptember 18, 2012 

Revenue Commissioner Bryan Butcher announces the $878 Permanent Fund dividend Tuesday. That buys about 163 gallons of home heating fuel in Naknek, a Bristol Bay village.

BILL ROTH / ANCHORAGE DAILY NEWS Buy Photo

This is the day Alaskans crow about to their brethren in the Lower 48, trying to make them jealous that the government gives them money to just live here.

Alaskans got the word Tuesday that this year's Permanent Fund dividend will be $878. Almost all Alaskans -- nearly 647,000 people -- will receive a dividend, their yearly share of the state's oil wealth.

But what your Alaskan friends may not tell you is that the yearly bounty barely makes a dent in the higher cost to live in the nation's northernmost state -- and this year's checks won't go far.

Living in Alaska costs more since most everything has to be shipped in. Ninety percent of all goods sold in the state pass through the Port of Anchorage.

There's no such thing as a dollar menu at a fast-food restaurant in Alaska -- it's more like a $1.50 or $2 menu. And there's a reason why many TV commercials advertising prices have a line in small print at the bottom saying prices may be higher in Alaska and Hawaii: It's because they are.

Here's a look at what this year's dividend amount -- approximately $878 -- will get you in Alaska:

• About $70 short of one month's rent for a single-bedroom apartment in Juneau, the state's capital.

• 88 12-packs of soda in the Western Alaska village of Nome. (Residents in Los Angeles could take home triple that amount for the same money.)

• Nearly 59 cans of Hills Brothers Coffee at the remote village of Fort Yukon, just north of the Arctic Circle.

• Not quite 11 days' worth of kibble, meat and fat supplement for winter feeding for 46 sleds dogs at Paul and Erin McLarnon's Broken Runner Sled Dog Kennel in Willow.

• A round-trip airline ticket from Anchorage to Seattle, but nothing left over for an in-flight meal or cocktail. The same ticket for a round-trip between Omaha, Neb., and Miami (roughly the same distance) would run half as much.

• A good down payment on a season ski pass at the Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, which costs $1,375.

• New clothes for the season; the Permanent Fund dividend would cover a new pair of men's ski pants, a down jacket and gloves.

• About 163 gallons of home heating fuel ($5.39 per gallon delivered) in Naknek, a Bristol Bay village about 300 miles from Anchorage.

• Two round-trip tickets from Anchorage to Fairbanks, along with a gold season pass for two to next year's World Ice Art Championships, which run from Feb. 26 to March 24. There should be enough money left after viewing the ice carvings for a couple of meals.

• About 4 1/2 months of an HD cable television package, including land line and Internet service, in Anchorage.

And while many would consider the Permanent Fund dividend free money, it's really not. Even though there's no state sales tax, the IRS taxes Alaskans on this income.

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