Sen. Wielechowski says 2018 PFD should have been $2,982
Permanent Fund Dividends will be disbursed next month, and every eligible Alaskan will get $1,600 but one lawmaker says Alaskans should be getting a lot more.
Anchorage Sen. Bill Wielechowski says that had the statutory formula for calculating dividends been followed; this year's PFD would have been around $2,982.
The Legislature and Gov. Bill Walker may have agreed to a lower PFD, but Wielechowski isn't happy about it.
The Democrat has long pushed for a fully funded dividend.
“I think it’s important for Alaskans to understand how much they are paying this year, how much they are giving up in their dividend to pay for government services,” Wielechowski said.
The Senate Democrats have launched a new calculator on their website to show, based on family size, how much PFD money Alaskans have lost out on over the last three years.
Wielechowski says it adds up to about $3,700 per Alaskan or nearly $15,000 for a family of four. That's money he says could be spent on things such as paying heating bill and college tuition.
“Using the dividend to balance the budget is the most regressive way to balance the budget,” Wielechowski said.
Commissioner Mike Navarre, who heads the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, says it’s not that simple.
He encourages people not think of a smaller PFDs as money leaving Alaskan’s pockets, but rather a way to maintain lifestyle.
“The dividend cut didn't just go to government bureaucracy. Where it went was to fund services to provide for the quality of life in Alaska, that Alaskans are used to and actually demand,” Navarre said. “They want better public safety, they want better education and they want access to good quality health care.”
Wielechowski has been relentless in his defense of a full dividend, but he has failed to gain the support of his colleagues in the Senate and from the state court system.
Still, he says he'll continue to remind Alaskans the size of what the dividends could be, while Navarre says without cuts Alaskans run the risk of someday not having one at all.
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