Poll: Most Alaskans understand or back reduced PFD
More than half of Alaskans say they believe Alaska's recent Permanent Fund dividend cuts were necessary, according to a recent poll.
The Harstad Strategic Research poll was paid for by the Alaska branch of the AFL-CIO. The local union group supported current Gov. Bill Walker when he defeated Republican incumbent Sean Parnell in 2014.
Less than half of the combined 51 percent majority which expressed backing for the dividend cuts said they supported them, according to the poll results.
While the AFL-CIO hasn't decided whether to make an endorsement for governor until after the August primary, it did release the Harstad poll -- along with other numbers to back its claim that in a three-way race against Republican contender Mike Dunleavy, neither Walker nor Democratic challenger Mark Begich will come away the winner.
We took the numbers from that AFL-CIO poll and posed the same questions to Alaskans we found roaming downtown Anchorage on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. Our results were very similar.
“It's a lifeline. I spent time in Barrow and when you're paying $9 for a gallon of milk it's tough and there's a lot of other places the reductions could have come from so it doesn't rob us,” said Natalie Day.
Other Alaskans told us that the PFD was meant for Alaskans, not to bail government out.
“It was reduced and it didn't make sense," said Anchorage resident Larry Husselton. "It was like we were doing OK and then they say we have a crisis. You don't all the sudden have a crisis. You know it's coming and you start figuring out ahead of time what to do and start making better decisions.”
However, some Alaskans defended Walker’s decision to halve the 2016 PFD.
“We have financial issues we need to address," said Stephen Price of Anchorage. "The Legislature isn't doing enough to address those by diversifying revenue streams so I believe the governor had to take some kind of action to address it.”
Other Alaskans went even further.
“I support the PFD reduction for the fiscal crisis as long as it is used for that,” said new mother Samantha Miller.
The real test of the poll will come in November when Alaskans will vote for their next governor. Three of the candidates have differing opinions on how they would hand out the checks.
Dunleavy has said that the Permanent Fund Dividend belongs to the people of Alaska, not the government. One of his key campaign issues has been to restore the full dividend amount.
Walker’s campaign says he supports the Permanent Fund Protection Act that the Legislature passed this year. It called for this year's dividend to be cut to about $1,200.
“Governor Walker believes this action was necessary to sustain and grow the dividend long term,” read a statement from Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott's campaign.
Begich says he supports a POMV formula like the Permanent Fund Protection Act, however, he would make changes including constitutionally protecting the dividend, and then dedicating the rest of the funds towards K-12 education. Both would need approval by Alaskan voters.
"I am proud to be the only candidate running for Governor who has a plan to constitutionally protect and guarantee a sustainable PFD, protect the health of the Permanent Fund, and secure long-term education funding to get us back on stable fiscal footing,” Begich said in a statement.
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