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Alaska has to pay its bills.
State Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, has proposed a constitutional amendment to "enshrine the Permanent Fund Dividend program in the Alaska Constitution." The proposed amendment would make the money for dividend distributions off limits to the Legislature for other purposes.
Gara says he fears that as oil revenue declines and politicians will look to the program to pay for state services it puts the dividend program in increasing jeopardy.
Ahem. We appreciate the dividend program as much as any other Alaskan, and we believe it should be maintained. But, if the state's financial situation becomes as dire as it would need to be to raid the dividend program, Alaska's responsibility is to pay its bills before Alaskans. Alaskans should see that. We pay our bills; then what is left over is ours to spend.
If we don't want the bills, then we need to spend less. That would mean cuts in services.
If we don't want to cut services, then we might need to look at the dividend program funds or an income tax. If an income tax was the choice, then Alaskans would pay taxes on their dividend income as well as all other income. In other words, Alaskans would receive a dividend check; then we'd give it back to the state in the form of income tax. The dividend money is gone either way.
With oil revenue declines and reductions in savings accounts, the state will have to do what individual Alaskans and businesses do: look for new revenue or cut services.
Alaska pays for its services from whatever revenue it has — or it doesn't and becomes a deadbeat state.
The latter doesn't sound like Alaska.