Alaska Notebook: A dividend to remember

September 4, 2013 

$858

The number above is a prediction of this year's Permanent Fund Dividend will be. Twenty bucks less than last year's, but a still a great deal for doing nothing better than drawing breath in Alaska for at least a year, whether a babe in arms or an old timer. Acting Revenue Commissioner Angela Rodell will announce the real number on Sept. 18.

Is it really just five years since the heady days of Sarah Palin, when a dividend of $2,069 and an energy rebate of $1,200 went to each and every Alaskan -- and early to boot? We got the checks in September that year.

Do you remember what you did with them?

I recall slashing debt and that fine payday feeling that you're flush, even for only five minutes -- long enough to remember your creditors.

The two grand came to us by formula, based on a five-year rolling average of Permanent Fund earnings. The $1,200 bonus caused a lot of angst and shaking of heads. The idea was to offset the surge in energy costs. Gasoline shot to $4.40 a gallon that summer on oil prices that peaked at more than $140. The state treasury swelled at the same time the People Mover had some standing-room-only runs. Talk of Alaska's "fiscal gap" turned to talk of how Alaskans would spend an unmatched windfall. There was the usual clucking about the sense of entitlement that we all were developing. $3200 and change for just being here. Must be the end of civilization, eh?

It's a safe bet that for most of us it was not a life changer.

Still, even for an Alaskan who's grown used to the dividend as part of life here, like studded tires, fireweed and Mr. Whitekeys, that 2008 payout was amazing.

Well, the market giveth and the market taketh away. Most Alaskans are wise to that. The currrent five-year rolling average still includes the dark market year of 2009.

As for the dividend's effect on us, we're less like children of entitlement and more like brown bears. If the berries are thick and the salmon runs heavy, we feast. If not, we live leaner.

And I'd still love to have a God's eye view of what we all did with the dividend payouts from the first one in 1982, what we purchased for good or ill.

-- Frank Gerjevic

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