It’s often about the money, and it will be beginning this week for Alaskans eligible for the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend.
Fund payouts are to be $1,114.
This because — when the State of Alaska started in the oil business — its prudent elected state leaders decided to invest its wealth and protect the oil revenue by ensuring a personal stake in the fund for Alaskans individually.
The investment has paid off, increasing the full fund to $81 billion as of this month.
Since inception of the dividend fund disbursements in 1982, Alaskans have collected a total of $26 billion. The dividends have formed the basis of savings accounts, paid education bills, covered vacation costs and made it possible to maintain housing and other necessities throughout Alaska. As lawmakers in the 1970s who fashioned the fund envisioned, Alaskans ably managed their share of the annual dividend.
This year 90% of Alaska’s approximately 734,000 population applied for permanent fund dividends. The result is that the state Department of Revenue will be disbursing $730.5 million this fall to dividend recipients.
However, Gov. Mike Dunleavy isn’t pleased with the amount disbursed directly to Alaskans.
Dunleavy campaigned in 2018 for dividend payouts consistent with constitutional requirements. The Legislature deviated from those rules beginning in 2017 and has every year since.
The governor would like full constitutional payouts and for the state to pay what it short-paid individual Alaskans since ’17.
He called the Legislature into its fourth special session this year in the past week, and seeks an increase to the 2021 dividend.
His effort — despite widespread support in parts of the state — is unlikely to succeed. Three special sessions and a regular session didn’t do it.
Currently, the dividend for 2021 is slightly over the original 1982 dispersement of $1,000 to nearly 471,000 Alaskans. With inflation over 40 years, indeed it’s less than the original payout.
But, it is $1,114 individually and a $730.5 million shot in the Alaska economy.
Alaskans will take it, invest it, spend it and be grateful for it.