Every Alaskan with a year or more of residence in the state has an individual share of the state's wealth. Every adult. Every child. Last week, the state announced it is setting aside $858 million in investments to pay Permanent Fund dividends to more than 600,000 Alaskans. We won't know the exact amount until September, but come October each of us will receive somewhere between $1,250 and $1,320, close to the 2009 dividend of $1305.
Split the difference for a check of $1,285, and a family of four brings $5,140 into the household.
On top of that, Alaska has no state sales tax and no state income tax. In Anchorage, we have no municipal sales tax, though other cities in Alaska do.
Between the dividend and one of the lightest tax burdens in the 50 states, we cannot claim we are overtaxed. It simply isn't true.
Yes, we pay property taxes in Anchorage and in other jurisdictions, but for many of us, the 2010 dividend will more than offset that bite. Compared to most of the Lower 48, Alaskans are cruising.
We can argue against government, debate whether or not to tax to the cap in Anchorage, wrangle over the cost of education, health care, welfare, public safety, capital budgets or bank restoration on the Kenai River and who's entitled to how many salmon.
But one thing we can't do in Alaska with a straight face or a clear conscience is claim that we're overtaxed.
Whether you look at the Permanent Fund dividend as an example of state socialism or a libertarian exercise in individual economic freedom, that October deposit is a reality check too. Just ask family and friends in the other 49 states if they'd like this deal.
BOTTOM LINE: Dividends remind Alaskans that our tax burden is light.