This year, the amount of the Permanent Fund Dividend has been a big part of the budget debate in Juneau. 

Gov. Mike Dunleavy wants to fulfill his campaign promise to pay a full PFD of about $3,000, based on the traditional formula. At the same time, he’s proposed more than a billion dollars in budget cuts.

So far, lawmakers have pushed back with smaller cuts and smaller PFD’s.

Lawmakers on Sunday passed the 90-day mark, the statutory limit for a regular legislative session. But in this week’s Frontiers program, we look at why this battle over the budget may take months to play out, and why public reaction to this annual process is unprecedented. 

Here are some of the highlights of this week’s show:  

  • Don’t touch my PFD. This is a whimsical yet somewhat serious look at what’s at stake in the PFD debate, framed around a song written by Hurricane Dave, an Anchorage singer-songwriter and humorist.  Jack Hickel, son of the late governor, Walter Hickel, also weighs in. Hickel is a member of the Permanent Fund Defenders, a group that’s fighting to preserve the traditional formula for calculating the dividend.   
  • Loveletter to Alaska. This year’s budget battle has also inspired poetry from a Juneau woman, Christy NaMee Erikson. With help from Ryan Cortes Perez of Gemini Waltz Media, she turned her poem into a video that has lit up social media in Alaska. 
  • Featured Guests: A lively discussion with political analysts Larry Persily and Tim Bradner. Persily writes opinion columns and is a former Deputy Revenue Commissioner. Bradner, along with his brother Mike, publishes the Alaska Legislative Digest.

In some ways, this episode of Frontiers serves as a time capsule, capturing the social fabric of an unusual period in our state’s history.  

After all, when can you remember a time when Alaskans have expressed themselves in song and poetry about the state’s fiscal matters? I would venture to say it doesn’t happen very often.

Christy Namee Erikson says she’s glad to see artists responding to the state’s budget crisis in their own language. Erikson wrote her “Love Letter to Alaskans” on Valentine’s Day, the day after the governor released his budget outlining $1.6 billion in cuts. She said it wasn’t written to the governor, but to Alaskans who felt hurt by the cuts.

Hurricane Dave Rush says he wrote his song, “Don’t Touch My PFD,” because he was tired of all the fighting about the amount of the PFD. You can find the lyrics and hear a recording of the song on his website. Whether or not you agree with the opinions expressed in the song, it’s still fun to sing along. Whoah. Oh. Oh. Oh! Whoah. Oh. Oh. Oh!

It’s good to have artists weigh-in, to remind us that the budgets are not just about numbers, but also about people.

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