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By JIM CRAWFORD
The legislative leadership appointed a special committee they call “a Bicameral Working Group to provide context and solutions to the ongoing debate over the permanent fund dividend.” I renamed it the Special Legislative Committee To Justify Cheating Alaskans of Their PFD.
Let’s look at the committee to determine if it’s going to give Alaskans a fair shake or provide more window dressing to cover the theft assigned by House Speaker Bryce Edgmon and Senate President Cathy Giessel. Each member of the House and Senate have already voted for or against the full dividend that Alaskans by statute are due.
This committee is made up of four House members. Jennifer Johnston, R–Anchorage, is the House chair. She voted against paying the full dividend. Adam Wool, D–Fairbanks, voted against paying the full dividend. Jonathan Kreiss-Thompson, D–Sitka, voted against the full dividend. Finally, the freshman Kelly Merrick R–Eagle River voted for the full dividend. That’s three of four staunchly opposed to paying your full dividend.
The committee is also made up of four Senate Members. Click Bishop, R–Fairbanks, is the Senate chair and voted against the full dividend. Bert Stedman, R–Sitka, voted against the full dividend. Shelley Hughes, R–Palmer voted for the full dividend. Donny Olson, D–Golovin, voted against the full dividend. So, out of eight members appointed by PFD public enemy #1, Speaker Edgmon, and #2, President Giessel, six of eight are committed to stealing your dividend and blaming the reason on you.
The latest PFD gambit is to say the full dividend is not sustainable. I was a member of the Investment Advisory Committee which came up with the dividend plan. We made the dividend sustainable under a simple formula: Five years’ fund earnings, averaged and divided by the number of Alaskan recipients. Pretty simple.
If the current statute is followed, the dividend is sustainable for a hundred years. You do the math for them. Your permanent fund savings earns money. You inflation-proof the principal and split the earnings balance 50% for dividends and 50% for expenses. Stick with the formula and don’t succumb to the temptation to outspend your means. Presto, you created a sustainable dividend.
For the last five years, the fund earned an average of 8.91% each year. We just passed $19 billion in earnings reserve. In FY 2018, we made statutory net income of $6.3 billion. Alaskans did our job and insisted on payment of the 25% royalty oil. We monitored the fund’s performance to assure good earnings. But the Legislature failed to do its job, managing the state budget. The governor knows that in addition to the fund, state agencies have another $4.3 billion in just three agencies. Legislators refuse to introduce legislation to consolidate state government. Instead, they want to short your dividend. Justice should be swift to remove those folks from office.
Alaska’s private sector sinks in recession, agencies hoard their cash, towns enjoy their local permanent funds and spending just continues to rise while results languish. Departments defy the governor’s cost cuts and consolidations to save money and are protected by legislators from both parties that continue the spending spree. Legislators bet that the folks back home will suffer in silence while their dividend is cut for another year.
Jennifer Johnston wants to “take away the emotions” from their decision to steal your dividend. Sen. Ted Stevens, my mentor, was famous for his ferocious temper. I shared my concern for his reelection one time as coordinator of his Alaska offices. He smiled and said, “Jim, I don’t ever lose my temper, I use my temper.” Time for Alaskans to follow his example with an action plan to save our Alaska Permanent Fund.
Jim Crawford is a third generation Alaskan entrepreneur who resides in Anchorage with his bride of 35 years, Terri. He is the former president of Permanent Fund Defenders LLC. He operates the Alaska Institute for Growth think tank that studies and reports on and may sponsor projects of sustained economic growth for the Alaska economy.