Fulfilling Gov. Mike Dunleavy's campaign promise of repaying previous years' Alaska Permanent Fund dividends would cost the state billions, according to a University of Alaska Anchorage economist.

Mouhcine Guettabi, a professor with UAA's Institute of Social and Economic Research, says that as of Jan. 3, the Permanent Fund stood at $61 billion, with about 28 percent of that amount – roughly $17 billion – in the earnings reserve available for spending.

Dunleavy's initial state budget, released last month, sets aside $1.9 billion to pay 2019 dividends. Based on that amount, eligible Alaskans would likely receive dividends of roughly $3,000.

A bill pre-filed by Anchorage Sen. Bill Wielechowski, which would require repayment of the dividend amounts withheld by previous Gov. Bill Walker and then the Legislature, estimates that total at $3,740 per eligible Alaskan. Dunleavy campaigned on paying the 2019 dividend along with the repayments, telling the Anchorage Daily News the combined checks would be about $6,700 apiece.

"If we want to fund a full dividend in 2019, and pay back the dividends for the last three years, we would need $4.3 billion," Guettabi said.

Adding $1 billion to inflation-proof the fund and $1.6 billion to cover an estimated state budget gap totals $6.9 billion.

"It would represent a third of the earnings reserve, in one shot," Guettabi said. "Clearly, there is money to do this; obviously it has risks associated with it."

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