About that Permanent Fund Dividend…




On Tuesday morning, Sen. Mike Dunleavy hopped into his Dodge Ram long-bed truck and drove past his horse barn, his mules, and his sprawling vegetable garden, over the river and through the woods, until he made his way from the rural outskirts of Wasilla into East Anchorage.

He stopped at the Fred Meyer shopping center for a press conference on his way to other business in town.

Dunleavy doesn’t typically have press conferences. That’s not how he rolls.

But on a gorgeous warm October day, he surprised everyone by announcing he will prefile a bill this November to restore full funding for every Alaskan’s Permanent Fund dividend.

He made his remarks one day before Alaskans got shortchanged on their dividends by their own governor, who vetoed half their dividends for the first time in Alaska history.

The 2016 Permanent Fund dividend was bifurcated by Gov. Bill Walker when he vetoed the funds for it in late June. Half of their money would go into the Permanent Fund Earning Reserves Fund. That way, he would have money to work with as he builds a sovereign wealth fund model that gives him the collateral he needs to borrow money to build his gasline.

Dunleavy didn’t consult with other senators before drafting the supplemental appropriation bill. He isn’t running for office this year.

He said he simply has heard from enough Alaskans over the past few months and they’re telling him loud and clear: What Governor Walker did was a direct and personal harm to every Alaskan family and the private economy.

What Dunleavy did, by drafting a supplemental appropriation bill, will put that money back into the economy of Alaska. If the legislation passes. And if the governor doesn’t veto it.

There are always the ifs.


Since his announcement yesterday, Dunleavy reports he’s receiving a steady stream of emails and text messages:

“I’m hearing from everyday Alaskans, not people inside the political bubble. I just had three text messages just now, one from a teacher who said, ‘thank you very much for what you did. You understand what is happening out here in real Alaska.'”

Dunleavy said he wants Alaskans also to remember this: The Republicans voted for the entire Permanent Fund dividend distribution when they voted numerous times for passing the operating budget, where that line item is.

The Democrats voted against the budget, always holding out for more spending in other areas, but never stepping up to protect the dividend in any way while they had a chance.


A few weeks ago, Democratic Sen. Bill Wielechowski filed a lawsuit to ask the courts to decide whether the governor actually has the legal authority to veto the Permanent Fund dividend.

That lawsuit is widely seen as a bit of political theater, but good theater, as a union lawyer like Wielechowski knows how to do. He got old-time

It also gives him a media advantage during his race for his own seat, where he’s being challenged by Kevin Kastner.

The problem is that most political observers and legal pundits don’t think his lawsuit stands a chance. The Permanent Fund dividend comes out of the operating budget, and the governor has always had veto authority there.

Wielechowski’s lawsuit is expected to court before December.