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Who’s going to control future Permanent Fund Dividends?

ANCHORAGE – Alaskans deserve to know who will control the future of Permanent Fund Dividends, the Alaska Democratic Party said today.

AS 37.13.145(b) requires the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation (APFC) to transfer 50 percent of the income available for distribution from the earnings reserve account to the dividend fund. In violation of this statute, Governor Walker vetoed $665,350,000, an action that will result in the reduction of every Alaskan’s PFD.

“The law is clear,” said Casey Steinau, chair of the Alaska Democratic Party. “The Governor does not have the authority to single-handedly override an existing statute.”

The Governor unilaterally chose to cut in half every Alaskan’s Permanent Fund Dividend. The Republican-led Majorities subsequently decided not to overturn his decision by refusing to allow a vote to override the Governor’s veto.  At the same time, both the Governor and the Republicans have left Alaskans on the hook for hundreds of millions in oil tax subsidies to some of the wealthiest corporations in the world, an amount that this year alone is virtually equivalent to the cut to the PFD.

“We must fix the oil subsidies and put an end to the massive giveaways to the oil industry,” said Steinau. “The Permanent Fund needs to be the very last option we look to.”

Democrats exhausted other avenues before Sen. Bill Wielechowski filed a lawsuit last week calling for the APFC to comply with its statutory obligation. Senate Democrats sought to overturn the Governor’s veto, but Senate Majority Leader John Coghill ruled the motion out of order. Senator Wielechowski appealed the ruling, but the Republican majority voted to uphold the ruling blocking any opportunity to override the veto. Last month, Wielechowski wrote to the APFC requesting they comply with the law.

“Sen. Wielechowski has been left with no other choice but to bring this matter to court,” said Steinau. “Alaskans deserve to know if this or any future Governor can solely decide on whether to cut the amount of the PFD any time they choose.”

The cut to the PFD does nothing to close the $3.2 billion budget gap or address our fiscal crisis. Earlier this year, ISER reported that a cut to the PFD would take a significant amount of money out of the economy while reducing the bottom 10 percent of household incomes by approximately 23 percent.

“Right now, the Governor and Republican-led legislature are asking more from a child worried about where their next meal is coming from than nonresidents working in Alaska,” said Steinau. “This cut only serves to harm our economy as well as Alaska families for whom PFD payments are a very significant source of income.”

According to the Alaska Department of Labor, the percentage of nonresidents working in the oil and gas sector has grown over the last decade to 35 percent in 2014. Overall, Alaska’s nonresident hire rate has reached 20.8%, with nonresidents taking home $2.6 billion in wages.

 “If Republicans had cut back on frivolous spending when oil was $145 a barrel, we wouldn’t be in this fiscal mess,” said Steinau. “This do-nothing Republican-led legislature got us into a deep hole and now refuses to fix it.”

Republicans authorized shameful wasteful spending including: the extravagant remodel of the Anchorage Legislative Information Office, the frivolous Medicaid expansion lawsuit, the pocketing of thousands of dollars in per diem despite living in their own homes, overpriced junkets and mega-projects we can’t afford.