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Judgment day in Juneau

  • Author: Sarah Vance
    | Opinion
  • Updated: May 14, 2019
  • Published May 14, 2019

The Alaska State Capitol is seen at sunset Wednesday, March 6, 2019 in Juneau. (James Brooks / ADN)

Our Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation, which is tasked with growing the Permanent Fund, has been achieving record growth and the fund is now valued at $64 billion. There is more money in the earnings reserve account today than there has ever been in the history of the Permanent Fund, roughly $18 billion. Your past PFD half-payments sit in the ERA growing interest for the state. Some politicians might tell you the state simply “cannot afford” to pay a full Permanent Fund dividend. Can this be true?

This legislator says: Transfer to the people what the law says belongs to them.

Your legislators stand at a crossroads. As we head into the last few days of the 2019 legislative session, lawmakers will be forced to answer critical questions about priorities. Will we ensure education is funded for fiscal 2020, or continue to play a prideful game of chicken with the governor? Will we repeal the mistakes of Senate Bill 91, or only pretend to be tough on crime? Will we pay out a full PFD, as is required by law, or perpetuate a recession to take more money from the pockets of Alaskans?

Make no mistake: Decisions made this week will speak volumes about the values of your elected officials.

I believe in a full, statutory dividend and will continue to fight for this cause. Alaska’s resources are our birthright and the PFD is our inheritance. As shareholders of the state’s wealth, the dividend is the ultimate expression of Alaska sovereignty. You should have priority over any government-funded project. Let us not forget that paying a full, statutory dividend is required by law.

This crisis was deliberately manufactured to create an environment where theft appears justified in the eyes of the public. Alaskans have been sold a story that the PFD system is broken and needs to be fixed – it’s fake news. Our economy continues to crumble while Alaska families struggle to put bread on the table. More than $72 million was stolen from the economy of my district. How about yours? If there was such a crisis, why didn’t the Legislature inflation-proof the fund for three years in a row in order to maintain its value? Thirty-three bills regarding the PFD are currently moving about the Capitol. Several bills rising to the top include transformative words replacing “shall transfer” to “may appropriate.” With edits like these, the Legislature would have the power to decide if, when, and how much to pay a dividend. Words matter. Intent is everything.

Nothing else stimulates the Alaskan economy quite like the PFD. It is critical to the fabric of Alaska’s economy.

The original intent of the fund was to offset a downturn in oil prices. With earnings the fund has produced, we could have been sowing the dividend into our local communities to curb our state’s four-year economic recession. Instead, for the past three years, we’ve allowed politicians to shrink our dividend check to ensure money is available for their pet projects. The state already gets 75% of the royalties to spend on bloated government. How much is enough?

Sarah Vance represents Alaska’s 31st District in the House of Representatives.

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