A day in Wasilla for House Finance - Must Read Alaska
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Monday, October 14, 2019
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A day in Wasilla for House Finance

The testimony before the House Finance Committee meeting in Wasilla on Tuesday showed the stark differences in how Alaskans view the role of the Permanent Fund dividend and the Rule of Law.

In Wasilla, the heart of conservative values, dozens of working class and retired Alaskans showed up at the Legislative Information Office to give their testimony about why the Legislature should follow the Rule of Law when it comes to the Permanent Fund dividend.

They came on walkers, in knee braces, with oxygen tanks, and on canes. They spoke about how Alaska Statute addresses how dividends are to be calculated, and they asked House Finance Committee to follow the law.

There were also Alaskans who testified that they really need the Permanent Fund dividend. They feel like it’s being stolen. One man said he was moving out of the state because he had really needed his dividend to live these past few years, and he can’t afford Alaska any longer. His house is now under contract.

Others showed up, too. They were the professionals. Some educators, some medical professionals in crisp shirts, some grant administrators for nonprofits. They were the people who were seeing their budgets cut, and they testified that the vetoes made by the Dunleavy Administration would do irreparable harm to the state’s economy and send Alaska into a spiral.

These were the two Alaskas in the room, with two different interpretations of laws and constitutional underpinnings.

Gunnar Knapp, retired director of the Institute for Social and Economic Research at University of Alaska, provided a blistering testimony about how the dividend formula is no longer working for Alaska. The formula needs to change to adapt to the growing needs of government. His remarks drew a large applause and from then on, each side applauded its own speakers as if to outdo the other side.

In addition to most House Finance Committee members, Senate President Cathy Giessel and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon made appearances, as did Senate Majority Leader Lyman Hoffman.

But the oddest appearance of all was that of former Walker-Mallott campaign manager John-Henry Heckendorn, who took notes for hours during the event. Who he is working for is a mystery but with campaign season warming up, and lawsuits now being threatened by former Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth, it looks like the Democrats called 1-800-JOHN-HENRY, campaign strategist to the stars.

None of the anarchists who had interrupted legislative meetings last week showed up at the meeting today, and police presence was heavy both inside the building and in the adjacent parking lot.

The House Finance Committee moves on to Fairbanks on Wednesday, where it will hear from a tsunami of university employees and related workers who are outraged at the 17 percent cut to the University of Alaska budget.

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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

  • “The formula needs to change to adapt to the growing needs of government. ”

    There’s obviously something wrong with this man’s thinking.

    • I agree. Gunnar Knapp has strong credentials and made a good presentation up to the point where he said that Government has made all the cuts it can, and thus inferred that the formula for the Dividend needed to be reworked.

      Has government really made all the cuts that it can ? Has it really made any significant cuts until the ones this year ? That’s the way it looks to me. Cuts to the Capital Budget don’t downsize gov’t. Where are the independent audits ? Where should the Cuts be made ? And where will they be made next year ? Has Gov’t itself downsized ? We want to know.

      • It depends on what it is that is the end result, Andrew.
        If it is your intent to throw the State into more recession (or worse), then your “Has government really made all the cuts that it can?” has an answer that looks good, to you.
        I don’t believe this Legislature is wanting to play with our economy the way you do and further, Knapp has the cred but what is your cred?

      • Well, if the State is now to the point of cutting aid to low income seniors, the pioneer home, deconstructing the public university, promising comprable cuts to K-12 next year maybe we have. If there is fat elsewhere to be trimmed why hasn’t DONNA from MI found it yet?

      • Whatever the case with Gunnar Knapp, that hearing in Wasilla was too much for Dunleavey and he’s called for the remainder of the session to be held in Juneau.
        It must have been too embarrassing to watch. And about time.

    • Lee Terry – I caught that too. Good grief are we not the state with the biggest government per capita in nation already? And when the private sector had been shrunk to size of a shriveled prune the money will dry up with it, as the pfd alone will never keep up. The term ‘educated idiot’ sadly seems to fit here.

      • Elizabeth, while you and Lee are jumping on Suzanne’s quote that may/may not be what Knapp said as it’s not a quote of his, but her (most likely) slanted paraphrase of his statement IMO.
        The term ‘educated idiot’ does seem to apply here but not for Gunnar Knapp IMO.

        • Playing Devils Advocate here…
          You think Suzanne may or may not have “slanted paraphrase”. Do you also think that the many writers at Anchorage Daily News may or may not also have “slanted paraphrase” their articles? Just curious.
          And, IMO, it’s not helpful to continually call people knuckle draggers or educated idiots. You’re using the same tactics that Trump uses for his enemies, BTW. I disagree with many people here, too, but name calling is part of why we have such a great divide in America and why we’ve become so tribalized. Do whatever you want to do, it’s your business.

          • Thanks for that S but in case you hadn’t noticed it was the previous poster who brought up the term “educated idiots.” And what is it that my opinion, of the many writers at ADN, has to do with anything here? I’m just curious here.
            Many writers paraphrase but the several commentators on here are assuming said paraphrase is what was said-do you know what was said?

          • Did you catch that S Evans, it was not slanted paraphrase but characterization through a conservative lens. Heheh!

    • Maybe his thinking is consistent with that of the voters in 1976 who approved a constitutional amendment to create a Permanent Fund the earnings of which were to fund basic government services – not to support an entitlement in perpetuity at the expense of basic government services.

  • It’s simply amazing how doing businesses the same old way for years and years has not improved anything in the state. Now we’ve got legislators wanting our PFD’s to fund inefficient agencies and organizations to keep things as status quo. I hope the governor can keep cutting and get us back on more realistic financial footing.

  • Please stop calling communist and socialist Anarchist. An Anarchist wants nothing from government.

  • How long will it be until retired state employee Gunnar Knapp, or even better an active state employee tells us that we need to tap the corpus of the Permanent Fund to fund government? Does anybody else see the inherent conflict of interest and self serving opinion of a retired state employee telling us we to spend more on government?

    • Go ahead and give us that “conflict of interest,” you speak of here Four-flusher. Knapp has his reputation on the line, which has nothing to do with his retirement status, but give us the conflict of interest of another retired state employee.
      Explain how that dog hunts! Take your time.

      • Chiwaaaawaaaa yips again. Little dog make (little) yip……

        • lol, Bill Yankee the Chihuahua troll.

      • Come on, Bill, is that the best you got? You’re not going to say anything about the corpus of the Permanent Fund and how I said it’s only a matter of time before tapping into it is proposed? Have you just written that off as a foregone conclusion? Just name calling and nonsense from you? You disappoint me Bill. At least rant and rave and call me something better than four flusher.

        • You know exactly the situation of Four-flusher and still can’t man-up. That’s your problem.
          You don’t seem to be able to show how your “conflict of interest” dog hunts and again go off on changing the subject. Your bit about “corpus” is mere speculation.

          • So then that is the best you got, very disappointing I must say Bill, very very disappointing showing on your part.

            Talking about changing the subject, why are you replying to my comment and trying to change the subject? The subject is a retired state worker saying we need to keep spending more on government and how it will potentially impact the corpus of the Permanent Fund. How long do you think until a former or current state employee suggests that we tap into it to continue growing government? Try and answer the question without name calling, I dare you.

          • Four-flusher, it was you who made the statement that it was a “conflict of interest” for a retired state employee to call for increased govt. spending-where is that conflict??
            It has nothing to do with whether/not someone calls for spending from corpus of PF and I have no idea of when/if a current or former state employee might call for such. There are thousands of people in those categories and anybody’s guess as to what they might call for. Your turn on that “conflict of interest” dog you keep avoiding.

          • Sounds like you are a solid no for seeing the inherent conflict of interest and self serving opinion question. You failed miserably at answering the when will they be calling for the corpus question without name calling. You didn’t even do a better rant and rave, it was just the same old Bill…with your same old lame name calling business. Try again.

          • Four-flusher, you’ve still not given a reason for your “conflict of interest” claim and, I suspect, you have no argument because there is none.

          • Stop trying to change the subject Bill, you keep failing.

            Try again, by the rules of engagement laid out above, if you are unable to do so move along and stop replying to my comments.

          • Go ahead and attempt to show that “conflict of interest” Four-flusher. Take your time.

          • Bill,

            We’ve already established your position on the conflict of interest issue, you don’t see it. Now, the part you are missing is answering the question of when the corpus of the PF will be called upon without name calling…just your best guess 5 years, 20 years, never. One last chance big guy, I know you can do it without the name calling this time.

          • Four-flusher, this is getting to you and you are wigging out.

          • Bill Yankee,

            Hard fail, you can’t answer an easy question without acting like a child. Stop stalking me Bill, stop replying to my comments if you cannot act like a man, stop failing so hard at such an easy thing.

        • Just as soon as you man-up about the lying Four-flusher!
          You can’t handle it, tough noogies.

          • Bill,

            Please remind me again of when you got to this great state and how old you are, if I remember correctly you said you first came here in the 60’s. The math just doesn’t add up.

          • It’s most likely just your math, Four-flusher. As soon as you man-up about the lying!

          • Then you aren’t a prepubescent boy? I’ve never seen such a childish display from somebody claiming to be an adult. Well, other than when you were banned from Craig Medred’s site.

          • But then blatant lying is OK in your book then Four-flusher??

          • Bill,

            You do not have the ability to have a rational conversation. I’ve already explained to you whatever it is you think I lied about, you cannot remember what you wrote and you will not go back and look it up. Keep calling me four flusher and a liar, whatever makes you feel good. Just know that all you are succeeding in doing is to make yourself look bad, very bad, like old man on the lawn in your robe and nothing else yelling at the squirrels kind of bad. Keep it up, I for one am enjoying the show!

          • Four-flusher, you have lied and can’t/won’t man-up. It’s you that is wigging out here!
            Tough noogies.

          • Bill,

            Where am I wigging out? You keep repeating the same nonsense over and over. I bet Gunner Knapp is happy to have people like you support him.

          • Well Four-flusher you seem overly concerned about me stalking you but it is you that keeps on with this BS bit about me not remembering your lying.
            Well, tough noogies!

          • You’re absolutely right Bill, I should treat you like the crazy guy on the bus and walk on by.

          • Except that you just can’t walk on by Four-flusher! It’s obvious who the crazy liar is here.

  • Until the full PFD is paid the money spend on public hearings and arguments about the Budget cuts nothing will be solved. Pay the full PFD and then address the future of cuts to balance the budget.

  • Another dog and pony show. Hopefully someone asks Lyman Hoffman when was the last time he attended a meeting on the YK Delta and actually answered questions from the audience. I can’t even remember him going to a village in the last thirty years.

    Lyman lives in Anchorage. He should be leading the charge for moving the legislature there.

    • Once upon a time, one of the top hits of a Google search was a page which concluded with “Lyman Hoffman and his wife Lillian live in Anchorage, Alaska”, as if the author wasn’t aware that this may contravene the requirements of remaining in office. This page doesn’t come up so prominently in searches anymore. He must have paid for a subscription to ReputationDefender or similar service, because you get Wikipedia instead and their claim that he lives in Bethel.

      • All he has to do is claim he’s doing legislative business and you never have to live in Bethel, once elected.

        The State standards for proven residency are in the legislators favor.

        It’s rumored his house is for sale right now in Bethel. Lyman is retiring at the end of his term, or when he can make a political trade to appoint his own successor, isn’t quite clear.

  • Government will spend every dollar you give it , justify it, and then ask for even more. We balanced budgets in the worst of times before; remember $9 dollar a barrel oil in the early 2000’s? Even though Murkowski, Berkowitz and Halcro were screaming for an income tax, we survived without it and without altering the Permanent Fund Dividend formula. Houston, we have a problem – it’s called unsustainable spending.

  • This article significantly mischaracterizes my testimony.

    You wrote “Gunnar Knapp, retired director of the Institute for Social and Economic Research at University of Alaska, provided a blistering testimony about how the dividend formula is no longer working for Alaska. The formula needs to change to adapt to the growing needs of government.”

    I said absolutely nothing about “the growing needs of government.” What I said was that our oil-revenue has drastically declined, and that we’ve also significantly cut state spending, so we have to ask ourselves whether paying half of PF earnings as dividends is still the best use of those funds. I also said that reasonable and thoughtful Alaskans have widely differing opinions about it.

    Below I’ve copied exactly what I said. I invite people to read it and see if it says anything about “growing needs of government.”

    I don’t mind debating or defending what I said. But I really don’t appreciate being grossly misquoted, and then having your commenters dump on me for things I never said. You should set a higher standard for yourself.

    –Gunnar Knapp

    Here’s what I said:

    “When we started paying dividends in 1982, Alaska was rolling in money and spending a lot on non-essentials. It’s a reasonable argument that paying out half of Permanent Fund earnings as dividends was the best use of those earnings at that time. The Permanent Fund was much smaller, and the earnings were relatively small compared to our huge oil revenues. We didn’t “need” those earnings for essential state services, Alaskans could certainly benefit from them, and paying dividends was a good way to protect the Fund from the very real possibility that it could be wasted on boondoggles.

    But times have changed. I’m sure you’ve noticed, and I hope all Alaskans have noticed, that the volume of oil flowing through the pipeline has fallen to the lowest level since 1978. Our Permanent Fund earnings are now larger than our oil revenues. It’s a reasonable argument that we’ve cut spending so much over the past few years that we can’t cut spending much more and still maintain essential state services.

    So it’s entirely reasonable to ask whether paying half of Permanent Fund earnings for dividends is still the best use of that income.

    It’s a tough question. Reasonable and thoughtful Alaskans have widely differing opinions about it. But it’s your job and your duty to ask that that tough question and to answer it. And the fact that paying half the Permanent Fund earnings as dividends may have been the best use of those earnings in 1982 does not necessarily mean that it’s still the best use in 2019, under very different fiscal circumstances.”

      • Just a blatant mischaracterizing of Knapp’s comments-pretty clearly a conservative mischaracterizing but as long as you sleep nights it’s OK.

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