A 50-50 dividend fix causes ADN writers to spill their martinis and spit invectives - Must Read Alaska
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Saturday, November 27, 2021
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A 50-50 dividend fix causes ADN writers to spill their martinis and spit invectives

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By SUZANNE DOWNING

The Anchorage Daily News editorial board set down its martini glasses long enough this week to tell Gov. Mike Dunleavy that his plan for fixing the Permanent Fund dividend was a “clown car.”

The plan is a resolution that is the subject of the special session of the Legislature. It would allow the people of Alaska to vote on a 50-50 split of the earnings of the Permanent Fund. By that, 50% of the available earnings from the Permanent Fund would go to Alaskans as dividends, and the other 50% would be available for the government trough. 

This formula, Dunleavy budgeters say, would prevent the account from being overdrawn in the future and would finish the work the Legislature left uncompleted in 2018, when it passed Senate Bill 26, which set a structured draw of the Earnings Reserve Account at 5 percent. 

Those lawmakers in 2018 never had the courage to decide how that 5 percent would be split, and because of that, today the overwhelming majority of the draw goes to government, and a slight remainder goes for the Permanent Fund dividend. 

Lawmakers and former Gov. Bill Walker left SB 26 incomplete, knowing a day of reckoning would come. The current governor now wants to complete the fiscal plan started by SB 26, by making sure that the way the Permanent Fund dividend is calculated is detailed in the Alaska Constitution, no longer the political football that all lawmakers agree it has become.

Since 2017, the Legislature has chosen to break the statute, and create a politically-charged dividend that has their own heads on the chopping block. It was exactly that “political solution” that cost Senate President Cathy Giessel and Senate Rules Chair John Coghill their jobs in the 2020 election cycle.

The governor has put forth a reasonable proposal to fix the unfairness of the current situation, where Alaskans are perennially the last in line, when before 2016, they could at least count on a fairly determined dividend free of political interference.

You see, Alaskans don’t care how much the dividend is, so much as they care they have been treated fairly.

In its sputtering diatribe, the ADN editorial writers threw adjective after invective at the proposal, and unceremoniously dumped its sponsors in the grease.

Let’s review the ADN’s overwrought word choices: “Horse-trading, mockery, hobbling the state’s future, raid, savings grab, fantastic scenario, cavalier, audacity, inexcusable, shenanigans,” and last but not least, “clown car.”

It was unbecoming of the daily paper to use its senseless prick of the pen to attack the sponsoring senators and governor for trying to put forward a solution. There are 60 lawmakers, plus one governor, and that means there are 61 different solutions for the PFD. 

Yet the only one who has offered a solution in the last three years has been the governor. And he has many lawmakers by his side.

Lucinda Mahoney, Gov. Dunleavy’s Commissioner of Revenue, explained calmly on Monday to the House Judiciary Committee that the 50-50 plan the public would vote on would require a one-time overdraw from the Earnings Reserve Account. Some $3 billion would be transferred to the Constitutional Budget Reserve to tide the state over for a couple of years. That would be an exceptional draw, and no question — it breaks SB 26’s “structured” draw.

Then, by fiscal year 2027, the state would be generating a budget surplus.

Meanwhile, in August, the lawmakers will get to return to Juneau to hash out the other part of the fiscal equation — how to pay for government, once Alaskans are getting their 50 percent of the royalties from the resources the state owns. Gov. Dunleavy has a proposal for that, too: Streamlining the budget some more and enshrining in the Constitution a provision that says no broad-based tax can be instituted without a vote of the people.

The Legislature, in the way it is now calculating the dividend, is already breaking statute. Yes, to draw $3 billion from the ERA is also breaking a different statute. The question is going to be: Which statute do the legislators want to break and how often? SB 26 just once, or year after year after year continuing to ignore Alaska Statute 43.23.025, which is clearly in conflict with SB 26, as it lays out the specific way dividends are to be calculated.

If that statutory formula is to change, Gov. Dunleavy wants the people to be part of that decision.

The ADN had to bring up the ghost of Gov. Jay Hammond, resting otherwise peacefully, when saying that Hammond wanted the Permanent Fund to be a “money well” to pay for state government when the oil wells run dry. That he did, and wisely so.

But along with Hammond, the Legislature created the dividend. The argument at the time was that not only should Alaskans share in the oil wealth, but the dividend itself would create a constituency, a third rail of politics that no politician could touch without getting electrocuted. The people would protect the principle. Without the dividend, the lawmakers would find a way to get to the principle and drain the Permanent Fund.

Hammond, like Dunleavy, advocated for fiscal responsibility, and even introduced an amendment to the Alaska Constitution limiting state spending. He was no more successful than Dunleavy has been at trying to get the Legislature to pass curbs on its own spending appetite.

A side story at play in 1974 was that Hammond had very narrowly beat Bill Egan for the Governor’s mansion. Egan was supported by the Teamsters boss, Jesse Carr of Valdez, and it was a bruising battle. Carr wanted government money for jobs for his union members, and the only way he could get it was if Egan was elected for a fourth term.

Hammond knew that the forthcoming oil money needed to be protected from special interests, but in reality it was the Carr’s cartel. By 1980, the dividend was put into statute, and statute was followed unbroken for 35 years.

How ironic that in 2016, it was another governor from Valdez, Bill Walker, this time with the powerhouse political money of Alaska’s Future and AFL-CIO’s Vince Beltrami still wanting to gnaw away at the Permanent Fund money for his special interests. The windfall oil monies of 1976 had been transformed into Aladdin’s cave, with billions of dollars accessible by a simple majority vote in the Legislature, and a willing friend living in the White House on Calhoun Street in Juneau.

Walker broke the faith with Alaskans when he vetoed half of the dividend in 2016 and put it into the Earnings Reserve Account, where it sits today.

And ever since then, the Legislature has wasted its own time and Alaskans’ money dickering over the dividend, even at a time when the Permanent Fund itself is on track to reach $80 billion this year.

Dunleavy has proposed a solution worthy of robust debate. The ADN needs to back away from the bottle and quit taking up arms against Alaskans. We are not the enemy. We are the shareholders.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • I think perhaps I need to do battle with the 3 stooges on the board. After all I am the one they decided to dump their elitist diatribe on last week. Should be fun pointing out the lies and misinformation they so shamefully spewed forth.

  • Suzanne reasons with a drunk and the rest of us get a history lesson. Amazing – and another reminder why I wouldn’t give a Nickel for an issue of the ADN. Best to Dunleavy and whichever Rep’s stand to help him protect the fund from the worst who would govern the most – which we would surely regret.

  • Write on Suzanne, well said. Even defined the word “prick”. ADN, you have just confined yourself to oblivion.

  • Outstanding coverage Suzanne! Kudos for governor Dunleavy. Yes, it’s monies of the citizens not the legislature, a gaggle of baffoons.
    ADN best sip on powdered milk,,,

  • It’s already a law
    Stop taking our PFD

  • There really isn’t any difference between ignorance and arrogance when it comes to Libs!

  • The PFD is already ensconced in State Statute – honor it! Case closed.

  • “..Alaskans don’t care how much the dividend is, as long as they are treated fairly..”

    Legislators (the media, elites, et al) have the most difficult time with the latter. They despise the electorate. The amount of the PFD is academic; it’s the control of it the ruling class will not relinquish.

  • The ADN isn’t worthy of lining a birdcage/ pen, litter box, puppy kennel, wrapping fish from the market, etc. etc. I care way too much for animal life and the quality of my fish to subject any of it to the ADN… and I believe that in the case of the living animals it could/ would be considered animal abuse.

  • Nice summary of the situation. Thank you.

  • Does anybody read that rag anymore?
    After the Times went bust, I read the News for a while, mostly for the Time’s editorial. Then they censured a few letters to the editor which I wrote, and I haven’t picked up one since, except leftover copies to wipe my windows with (don’t have any bird cages to line).
    I get virtually all my news now from the web, not any paper, whether print or online. KTUU is dead to me also. Who needs liberalism pushed down their throat?

  • A surprise that ADN can’t find bigger government spending that it doesn’t like? A surprise that ADN despises the people of Alaska? A surprise that the ADN is run by Bolsheviks? Not at all. There is no ‘mainstream media’ remaining in the US, only a cabal of foreign funded leftist progressive outlets falling over themselves to please their puppet master elites. The PFD was established for the people of Alaska by those knowing that bureaucrats would fritter any money coming into their hands to buy votes at the expense of society at large (the more money Anchorage puts into homelessness the larger the problem grows-surprise). Dunlevy is under attack from all sides and maybe that is a good sign. Maybe he is the kind of candidate Bob Bell calls for.

  • The Permanent Fund is now the single largest producer of revenue for the State of Alaska. Do we really want to suck money out of it, money which will produce more revenue and continue to grow the account, just to give everyone an extra $1200 for a one shot kick in the wallet? This is getting dangerously close to killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. This is eating our seed corn.
    The oil rush is over. The big bucks from the big oil companies is going away and not coming back. There need to be other ways to keep the state afloat. (Do we really want to see the state go back to territorial times?) Dunleavy, in his wisdom, thinks he can get the predominantly REPUBLICAN, clown-car run government to continue to play street polo with the can they have been so adroitly kicking down the road the last 20 disastrous years.
    We need to get past outmoded thinking that has got us where we now find ourselves and start getting serious about what we can do to make the future better. Sure, it’s nice to get an extra 1200 bucks, but if we continue to deplete the state’s bank account, there’s not going to be anything left for anyone.
    That’s when those of you who think anything spent on government, you know, schools and roads and infrastructure (minus the boondoggle projects) and things like that, is wasted unless you get it back in a check for doing nothing but living here, will get a chance to find out what living the frontier life is really like. And you won’t be getting any PFDs.

  • Why can’t the ADN owners, Johne Binkley and his son Ryan, tell the Editorial Board to quit acting like a bunch of caged, unsanitized monkeys and learn some manners when on full display?
    These crazed, Leftist loons are not what the Binkley family bargained for when they bought the ADN. The goal was to make it a better paper and keep the readers informed of the Truth. The Binkleys got off to a good start when they fired Dermot Cole from the ADN, years ago. The Little Dwarf up in Fairbanks is not missed.

  • Greg R:
    Exactly what garbage have you been feeding on that would lead to your conclusions? Certainly nothing in the vein of reality. “Republican run government”? I’ll have some of what you’re smoking.

  • The PFD attracts garbage bears. Get rid of the element that puts free money in people’s pockets as Alaska should not be made up of a population that’s here for free stuff. The more effective the fund becomes at filling the pockets of those attracted to free money, the worse Alaska’s future will be.
    .
    If you genuinely believe any share of that money is yours or that you’ve somehow earned it; you’re definitely part of Alaska’s blossoming problem.

  • this same conversation and suggestion of 50/50 as in a community property split arbitration has been talked about for donkey years now. as if we the people are happy with what bankers, lawyers, and Politicians have done to our great land Alaska. There’s an easier and more equitable plan only creative inspiration doesn’t come from the top, they are elected by special interests.

  • Trouser Bark, the PFD is less than a drop in the bucket to those who choose to live off the largess of the productive citizens. It is the other ‘entitlements’ to able bodied that need to go. People need to learn to live within their means sooner, because they certainly will later when the system goes broke. Housing assistance, energy equalization, food stamps, WIC, Medicaid and all the other public welfare programs need a hard look for the recipients own good. Even FDR knew that it was better to provide jobs for the neediest than just hand out freshly printed money. My father was one of those benefitting from the CCC and they did great things, but he was certainly glad to come home to a 9-5 job (he started his own company). The PFD belongs to the citizens, not the government and few live off it (except my trapper friend who makes his once year purchases of ammunition, flour and sugar).

  • The only way to get the attention of ADN’s owners is to simply stop subscribing to the online and print versions of the newspaper. And if you advertise in the paper, stop doing so.
    There are alternatives to ADN. Use them to inform yourself.
    Suzanne does her share in pointing out the political abuses ADN engages in. It’s time for her readership to do their part. Cancel your subscriptions to ADN.

  • What is this “ADN” of which you speak?
    .
    LOL

  • I no longer subscribe to any newspapers and I have also stopped watching Channel 2 News. I simply can’t trust any of them to provide accurate and unbiased news..

  • A bunch of louses, infesting the ink reservoir of the ADN. Their writings are 7th and 8th grade level, predictably juvenile, on par for an apprenticeship at Mad Magazine. Suzanne has the superior writing skills, accompanied with a megadose of intellectual reasoning. These fog-brained fools at the ADN get a few kudos from their pot-smoking loyalists, but awards for clever writing skills and reasoned judgment …. they will not get. If the Binkleys hired Suzanne to the Managing Editor position at ADN, the paper would make a sudden impact as a Truth serum for print media and spawn a flood of small business advertisement. But then, who would be around to run MRAK…….
    the greatest media source in this state?

  • Editorial commentary at the Daily News is like a long, painful release of flatulance. It’s not just the sound of the Leftist’s musical fruit, but the sharp sting to the nasal membranes that reminds us of how rotten things have become at ADN.

  • Scumbags in the Legislature all need to go. Useless bastards! If they aren’t wasting funding on special sessions which should be completely stopped, they are screwing over residents and hiking their special programs for those who are either too stupid to get a real job or too used to all the government handouts or both.
    Vote to have the Governor put everything out to the residents and let the people decide what is good for ALL of Alaska…not just certain groups who get everything subsidized for them. Why do we need a lousy body of incredible lazy and arrogant Legislators who couldn’t legislate their way out of a paper bag?

  • I have to agree with Greg R above and also Trouser Bark – except I would put our legislature in the same camp as the ‘garbage bears’ hungering after free money. Our state is still bloated in spending and needs to get back to fiscal government basics which are infrastructure and safety first. Notice I didn’t list schools – as education spending is grossly bloated and we are paying for too much indoctrination as opposed to useful education. I for one am not charmed by an annual check but what would make me happy would be a fiscally responsible state government not lulled by ‘free money’ or special interests.

  • Elizabeth Henry, by their very nature politicians will never be fiscally responsible. We may send good people to Juneau or DC, but their bodies are quickly assumed by power hungry greedy trolls. The only control upon them is continual pressure from the people and too often too many become lax, leading to the situation we face today.

  • Do not jam the PFD into our Alaska Constitution!!! It will draw freeloaders to our state, which will increase the need for more public services. This will cause a state income tax, which will lead to income redistribution, and will turn our state into a land of zombies. Also, free-cash-handouts in the Alaska Constitution (elevating it to a “basic human right”) will metastasize to the rest of the nation and will help bring about a “Universal Basic Income”. This, along with a monstrously rising $27 trillion national debt, will finally lead to the collapse of our nation. We will become a people in bondage, as has happened to so many other people throughout history.

  • The PFD should absolutely not be jammed into the Alaska Constitution.
    .
    It will draw handout seekers to our state, which will increase the need for more public services. This will cause a state income tax, which will lead to income redistribution, and will turn our state into a land of zombies. Also, free-cash-handouts in the Alaska Constitution (elevating it to a “basic human right”) will metastasize, like a cancer, to the rest of the nation and will help bring about a “Universal Basic Income”. This, along with a rising $27 trillion national debt, will finally lead to the collapse of our nation.

  • I’ll try to write a simple comment here. The PFD is, well I guess I can’t say. The filter keeps erasing my comment..

  • This time I’ll try to write a “reply” to someone else’s comment. My direct comments about the PFD won’t stick here for some reason.

  • Now I see my comment from yesterday. Maybe I just needed to click on the “refresh” button.

  • Suzanne, this is a good summary of the PFD quick sand. I have one comment. A lot of different approaches to the Permanent Fund have been contributed to Governor Hammond. As one of his many friends, I had the opportunity to talk to him personally about the fund as it was nearing its birth. One of the things he told me about the PFD was that he would prefer that it be as large as possible and guaranteed each year. Part of his reasoning was that , as he said, if the Legislature wants funds for government they can tax the public. That way, a graduated tax would provide relief for rural and low income residents while providing a funding source for government services the public really wanted and was willing to pay for. Although he may have justified the PFD in other ways to others, this approach is characteristic of Jay’s attitude towards Government and the need to protect the distribution of the wealth to the public. After all, he is the one who proposed that the PFD be calculated based also on the number of years living in Alaska. Had this not been struck down by the courts, it would have provided significant benefits to rural residents and other life long Alaskans.

    Ron

  • Suzanne, thank you for the explanation about comments procedure.

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