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Sadly, Walker's plan for Permanent Fund is right out of the oil industry's playbook

  • Author: Shannyn Moore
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published October 31, 2015

Not sure what I was thinking when I suggested the use of the Permanent Fund as the first place to go to pay for our deficit. It seemed like such an easy answer: we need money, we have the Permanent Fund sitting out there. Let's just use that. But like so many issues that seem easy at first glance it's not quite that simple.

Some argue the Permanent Fund was meant to be a rainy day fund. Maybe. Others say it was meant to be "Permanent" -- to share our resource wealth fairly with future generations. Regardless what was meant when the Permanent Fund was set up, it has become something that Alaskans now rely on -- for food, housing, fuel, and yes, an occasional big screen TV. And it's not only the individuals who rely on it -- it's vital for our economy. Ask any small business person how important the dividend is.

As I think about it -- using the Permanent Fund to pay for government is about the most regressive way you could pay for government. The governor's proposed plan calls for every Alaskan to have their PFD cut from about $2,000 next year down to about $1,000. So basically a tax of $1,000 on every Alaskan. The single mom with two kids working two jobs loses $3,000, while the single multimillionaire loses $1,000. In what world is that fair? This proposal takes not one penny from the oil industry or mining industry. Nothing from those who live Outside and work up here. Nothing from tourists. The burden is placed solely on Alaskans.

And where will that $1,000 tax on Alaskan kids, seniors and the poor go? To pay for things like the Taj Mahawker, $50 million in tax credits to Tesoro, the gasoline refiner who's gouging us and, of course, to pay out $642 million more in oil tax credits than we receive in oil production taxes.

Weird that instead of fixing our broken oil tax structure we are going straight for Alaskans' PFDs. By now, most Alaskans are probably feeling a little snookered by the "Make Alaska Competitive" group and the oil industry -- who told us if we slashed oil taxes we'd get all this new oil -- million barrels per day! according to Gov. Sean Parnell. We'd have all this new revenue, and, most importantly -- we'd "protect the Permanent Fund!"

Alaskans didn't believe it when opponents of the oil tax giveaway said the oil industry was going to be coming for our PFDs after the SB 21 referendum failed. Well, here we are folks. The oil industry and Chamber of Commerce are lining up to take your PFDs just like they did back in 1999 when they funded the ballot initiative to try to convince Alaskans to raid the Permanent Fund. They failed then with 83 percent voting NO.

And don't even try telling me production is down because of low oil prices. Alaska's oil production has steadily gone down for years, and is projected to go down about 5 percent per year for the next decade.

It's as if the governor's plan was dreamt up by the oil industry and the Chamber of Commerce as a way to protect themselves from paying more. And when I read recently about who has been working with the governor on this plan -- that's exactly what happened. The Chamber put out their proposal on how to pay down the deficit. Their number one revenue suggestion: use the Permanent Fund. Number two -- "broad-based taxes on working Alaskans." Sen. Peter Micciche (R-ConocoPhillips) proclaimed, "Shame on those putting out press releases that say 'I'll fight to keep legislature from raiding the Permanent Fund.'" Spoken like a true oil industry spokesman.

No mention of fixing our oil tax structure. Then I saw the governor has been having closed-door meetings with the likes of Jim Jansen and Mark Langland -- the co-chairs of Make Alaska Competitive. It's all clear now. Take from the poor so we can keep paying out those big tax credits to the rich. Langland and Jansen have been behind just about every corporate giveaway and tax cut in the last couple of decades. Had they gotten their way and defeated the ACES oil tax reform in 2007 we'd be flat broke now instead of having billions in savings.

I'll admit it -- I made a mistake. I'm hoping Gov. Walker will admit his mistake. Instead of taking from the poor to give to Exxon, I hope the governor goes back to Mr. Jansen and Mr. Langland and asks them where the million barrels of oil is. That would solve a lot of our deficit. If they refuse to pony up the oil they spent tens of millions promising they'd deliver, it's time to tax them and the oil industry. I say we tax them like North Dakota. That would double our revenue and close our deficit.

Shannyn Moore is a radio broadcaster.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com

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