AWKWARD ANNOUNCEMENT PRERECORDED: $1,022
One thousand and twenty-two dollars is still a lot of free money in this day and age, but not as much as one might think.
The amount of this year’s Permanent Fund dividend amount, announced earlier this morning by video, is a 1982 equivalent of about $485. Inflation is a hard master.
Gov. Bill Walker recorded the video before leaving this week for Singapore, thus avoiding the uncomfortable questions that might come from an increasingly curious press. There would be no questions about the lawsuit that Democrats and his former staunch allies have filed against him for taking more than half of Alaskans’ dividends.
His press release directed reporters to call Revenue Commissioner Randall Hoffbeck for further information, while the governor was otherwise engaged on his Asia gas promotion trip.
He did not leave the tough matter to Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott or Hoffbeck. No, with this method of tape-delay messaging, nothing was left to chance.
The governor’s video recording showed him being politely interviewed by a Palmer high school student, the same girl who helped him announce the amount last year. She had a sheet before her from which she read a couple of questions that had been given to her for the occasion, because that was an easier way for Walker to pivot to his budget message.
With his piggy bank charts behind him, Walker used the occasion to reiterate that if Alaska’s budget deficit isn’t addressed, there will be no more Permanent Fund checks in the future.
Intended to be a “nothing to see here” announcement, it was the equivalent of hiding behind a winsome child in a controlled environment to deliver difficult news. By the time he returns from Asia, the media will be on to other stories, such as elections and more Anchorage crime.
Last year, during the annual PFD announcement, the governor said he did not want to politicize the event, saying past governors engaged in too much fanfare.
But this year, he dove into the politics of it by making the announcement all about the budget and threats to future dividends.
BETWEEN THE LINES: A POPULATION CRASH UNDERWAY?
In 2015, 676,379 Alaskans applied for a Permanent dividend. 644,000 qualified. Today’s press release from the governor states that 643,000 Alaskans qualify.
That net loss of 1,000 qualified applicants represents a drop in population for the year ending in December, 2015.
As for charitable giving, last year, 34,000 PFD recipients donated $3.4 million to charities, about 7,000 mor than in 2014 and with $700,000 more in dollar value contributions.
This year, there has been no announcement regarding contributions to the Pick.Click.Give program, which has grown since its inception in 2009.
A call by Must Read Alaska to the Department of Revenue went to voice mail, but we’ll update when more information is made available.
At this time in 2015, the Permanent Fund was $51.5 billion. This year, it has reached $54.5 billion, a nearly six percent increase.
(Story corrected to reflect 644,000 qualifying for PFDs in 2015.)