Alaska politics has been a wild ride from the very beginning and doesn’t show any signs of changing, because we still wrestle with some of the same challenges we faced at statehood: how to pay for the cost of government in a state with a huge, land mass but a small population.

In 1980, flush with oil from Prudhoe Bay, the state legislature thought our problems were over. They killed the personal income tax, as well as the head tax for schools.

Clem Tillion was Senate President that year. He and Gov. Jay Hammond fought a losing battle to retain the income tax, but they also managed to create the Permanent Fund.

In this episode of Frontiers, we traveled to Halibut Cove to get a history lesson from Tillion. I find it’s always more pleasant to learn about our state in conversations aboard a boat — or while breakfast is being cooked on an iron stove.

In contrast, we hear from two political reporters, who weren’t even born when Tillion and Hammond were busy birthing the Permanent Fund

Here are some of this week’s highlights:

  • Man on a Mission: Clem Tillion talks politics of the present -- and why he’s a self-appointed protector of the Permanent Fund.
  • Hammond’s Hammer: Clem Tillion talks about politics of the past – and how 1980 was a watershed year in Alaska history, the year the state income tax was abolished and the Permanent Fund Corporation was created.
  • Election Year Politics: KTVA’s Liz Raines and Alaska Dispatch’s Nat Herz look at prospects for an upcoming legislative session in October -- and how 2018 election year politics are already in the mix.    

One final note: I realize that in this week’s show, we present only one man’s opinion on how Alaskans should finance state government into the future. Think of this show as the first installment an ongoing conversation on state government. Please email your suggestions and comments to


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