Reality Check w/ John Tracy: You shouldn’t blame Walker for half of a PFD
On Friday, we found out that this year’s dividend will be $1,022 instead of $2,052. All because Governor Bill Walker unilaterally cut the dividend in half, keeping nearly $700 million in the earnings reserve.
Walker says that money might be needed for future dividends or for state spending after we’ve blown through our savings, which we’re on track to do within the next two years.
Some Alaskans are upset. One lawmaker is suing Walker, claiming he had no authority to set the dividend amount.
For the past year I’ve been trying to understand how any Alaskan can find the sense in paying ourselves dividends at a time we’re draining our savings accounts at a rate of $360 thousand dollars an hour.
A friend of mine put it to me this way; the first generation saves, the second generation spends and the third generation is left with the consequences.
The Permanent Fund is 40 years old this year. Welcome to the end of the second generation.
I don’t know why there’s been so much debate about the purpose of the Permanent Fun — it’s written into the amendment that created it, to provide a means of conserving a portion of the state’s revenue from mineral resources to benefit all generations of Alaskans.
It wasn’t, as some people tend to believe, created to generate a dividend.
That legislation came years later and allows lawmakers to use a portion of the fund’s earnings to provide dividends. The key word is allows… not requires. But we’ve been paying them since 1982 and that’s how entitlements are born.
The courts will decide if Walker had the legal right to make the cut but I think he had the moral right.
And I think most Alaskans agree.
There were other ways to come up with $700 million through combinations of cuts and taxes, but enough lawmakers gambled that doing nothing was better than doing something — a gamble that several of them lost in the primary.
As they stepped back, Walker stepped up.
Politics, it turns out, may be a popularity contest, but governing is not. Walker seems to know the difference — at least on this issue.
John’s opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of Denali Media or its employees.
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