Consider the value of an apple. Eating one a day isn’t a health plan, but it’s not bad for you either.

I once worked at a company for which this was our typical year-end bonus. By and large we were okay with it. Because we knew the owners were putting all their profits back into the company, and that was good for all of us.

But as Alaskans, we don’t think that way anymore. We want our bonus regardless of how well our company is doing.

Yes, I’m talking about the Permanent Fund dividend.

The Permanent Fund itself was established in 1976, with an investment of less than a million dollars. At that time, Alaskans were still paying an income tax.

Today it’s worth about $52 billion!

So, what was the purpose of the fund? Quite simply, it was intended to support the State when taxes and royalties from oil and gas could no longer do so. It was enshrined in the Constitution, with rules that required the fund’s principal to be inflation proofed, so it could continue to grow.

The Permanent Fund dividend did not come along until 1982, when lawmakers decided to give Alaskans a direct share of wealth generated by the fund.

The dividend is not in the Alaska Constitution, and lawmakers, at any time, may use the fund’s earnings to pay for state government.

Instead, those earnings have been used to generate dividends for us, and if you’ve been here a long time, you’ve done pretty well.

I did the math on my own family, and our little tribe has received $139,808 worth of dividends over the past 30 years — enough to pay for college educations, a snow machine or two and some trips to Hawaii.

For me, the dividend has been a terrific bonus. But for many Alaskans, it’s more than that, and I get it.

Let’s be honest for just a moment and admit the biggest conceit we’ve always told ourselves is that we have somehow earned our PFD, that we require a bonus for living here at a time when we don’t have the money to pay for services like education, public safety and health care.

If the dividend is your single highest priority, you’re in luck, because the same political motivations that created it will protect it, at least until our savings are gone.

But make no mistake, Alaskans, the day is coming when we’ll be paying for state government again with our own money or with our dividend.

So, how do like them apples?

The viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily represent those of KTVA 11 News.

Reality Check w/ John Tracy airs Thursday at 6 p.m. & 10 p.m. on KTVA.

The post Reality Check w/ John Tracy: Using the Permanent Fund to balance Alaska’s budget appeared first on KTVA 11.