Group gathers in downtown Anchorage to begin efforts at recalling Alaska Gov. Walker over slashed PFD

A group has officially started efforts to recall Alaska Gov. Bill Walker over what it calls the theft of the Permanent Fund dividend.

About two dozen people gathered Monday evening in downtown Anchorage, across Seventh Avenue from the Robert Atwood building, which houses the governor's city office.

They have two major complaints about Walker's recent actions. They argue he is stealing the PFD after making promises as a candidate to not touch the annual checks. The second argument centers on the governor engaging in deceptive practices with the state budget and "failing to cut millions to boondoggle spending," according to the group's website.

Attendees at the gathering held signs reading, "Cut the govt. NOT the PFD," "Defend the PFD, recall Gov. Walker" and "Gov. Walker a 'Bill' I'm going to veto." There was also someone in a pig suit.

Walker announced in late June that he'd use his veto pen to alleviate the $4 billion hole in budget revenues caused by low oil prices and dwindling oil production. He said the state can no longer afford high annual dividends from the $52 billion Alaska Permanent Fund, like the $2,072 payout in 2015 to every adult and child resident. His PFD veto allows for a $1,000 dividend this year.

[Walker proposes statewide sales tax, oil tax increases to kick off special session]

Former Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller helped draft the recall application, the initial step in efforts to oust Walker. Standing on the sidewalk Monday among volunteers and supporters, Miller said there is no one organizer behind the group. Rather, it's an "organic effort," he said.


"There's a lot of outrage, and people have come together who want to do something about a governor who ran on a platform of protecting the PFD and not using that to pay down the budget. He's done the opposite," Miller said.

Miller said he and others have heard from hundreds across the state. The loss of 50 percent of the PFD check will adversely affect them, he said. He heard stories of Alaskans worried about medical bills, school clothes and travel expenses, he said.

Holding picket signs, several of the recall supporters said they were not as dependent on the Permanent Fund payout as their rural counterparts.

Anchorage resident Rocky Dipple said the check serves as more of a financial bump every October. Dipple said he realizes the fund won't likely exist forever, but Walker should not be allowed to use it on unrealistic plans to build a new pipeline.

"The question is: Is the veto legal?" Dipple asked.

When Walker vetoed half of this budget year's money for Permanent Fund dividends, people quickly questioned whether the move was legal.

Walker's team said there is no doubt the governor has the power. State Sen. Bill Wielechowski, a Democrat from Anchorage and an attorney, has expressed skepticism. Wielechowski is investigating the legislative history of statutes governing Permanent Fund dividends and is considering bringing a court challenge himself.

"I think what he did was illegal," said recall supporter Annette Baiocchi. "He lied. He's not looking for real ways to fix the budget and he needs to go."

Recalling Gov. Walker would take several steps. The first of which involves preparing a recall application. To gain approval for the application, organizers need to gather signatures totaling 10 percent of the voters in the last general election, or 28,585 signatures.

If approved, the state's Division of Elections office will issue official recall petition booklets. Those books will have to be filled with about 70,000 signatures before Alaskans get the chance to vote Walker out of office.

Jim Gribben, of Anchorage, said he doubts Walker will be recalled.

"I hope these efforts will send a message," he said.

Miller echoed that sentiment when asked if the recall group faced an uphill battle.

"You have to realize that the activism that's spawned by this is a critical part of a functioning democracy, and people becoming active about this issue in and of itself holds significant value."

Jerzy Shedlock

Jerzy Shedlock is a former reporter for Alaska Dispatch News. He left the ADN in 2017.