It’s difficult to remove the emotion from the dividend debate because of how significantly and directly beneficial it is to all Alaskans, especially families. No matter where you live in this frontier, the dividend has significantly impacted your life. The Permanent Fund dividend allows each individual and family to put those funds toward their own unique set of needs. No other program can do this. No other program can lift families out of poverty, provide a down payment on a house, college tuition for kids, a new roof on a home, a used car, presents at Christmas time, a washer and dryer, a set of truck tires, school clothes for the kids, an emergency fund in a family’s bank account … the list can go on and on. No other program can do this.
But let’s take the emotion out of the debate and look at the facts. PFD cuts are inequitable and regressive, taxing lower income households disproportionately at a much higher rate than upper income households. They place the cost burden of funding government exclusively on Alaska residents, with families carrying the heaviest cost burden. It hurts the poor, vulnerable, children, and seniors on fixed incomes. PFD cuts remove money from the economy, reduce household income, and hurt private-sector businesses.
Why is the most beneficial program that reaches all Alaskans being prioritized as the one to cut? Why are so many legislators on both sides of the aisle pushing for PFD cuts that will hurt the very same groups and causes they advocate for? Why aren’t other revenue options being considered? Are legislators are trying to protect the highest income earners in the state from an income tax? Maybe.
Maybe it’s past time to expand the scope of this conversation. Maybe legislators need to start analyzing various revenue options instead of limiting the conversation to PFD cuts, the most regressive, harmful option to middle- and lower-income Alaska families. And maybe its time to put this debate behind us forever by protecting the dividend in the constitution for all future Alaskans. Maybe then, we can finally find a revenue option that’s fair, equitable and acceptable to the majority of Alaskans.
— Catherine Felt
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