Deven Mitchell: Alaska’s remarkable decision in 1976 to create the Permanent Fund stands test of time

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By DEVEN MITCHELL

This October, I was provided the opportunity to serve as the executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. As a lifelong Alaskan, leading APFC is my childhood dream come true. From meeting with Gov. Jay Hammond with my third-grade class in 1976, to receiving the benefits of the fund’s existence throughout my life, to now having the experience to manage the corporation is truly special.

To tell a little about myself, I was born in Cordova and raised in Yakutat and Juneau, where my wife Erin and I reside and raised our two sons. For several decades, I served as Alaska’s debt manager and executive director of the Alaska Municipal Bond Bank Authority.

In my career, I often explained and highlighted the strengths of the Permanent Fund and the talented staff of the corporation. I am pleased to report that during my first month on the job, my long-standing belief in an organization composed of top-notch talent and a culture of outperformance has been validated.

As we count down to 2023, I encourage you to pause and reflect on what a remarkable decision Alaskans made in 1976 when they voted to set aside money that they could have spent then to ensure future generations of Alaskans would also benefit from the state’s resource wealth. Think about that, every year since the fund was established, the people of Alaska have made do with less to ensure the Permanent Fund would be able to benefit future generations. That intergenerational foresight for saving and investing a portion of the state’s revenue has helped Alaskans in the past, is supporting us today, and is being managed to continue providing in the future.

Just 13 years after the fund’s creation, one of its earliest supporters, Lt. Gov. Red Boucher, wrote: “The Permanent Fund is something wonderful we have done for ourselves. It offers real hope for the future and security for today. It represents the wisest use of our one-time oil wealth to date. We have designed it well, we have invested it wisely, we have consistently added to it, and we have ceaselessly protected it with great vigor.”

Almost half a century later, those words still ring true.

To maintain its long-term value, the Permanent Fund relies on a well-designed system of rules that define spending and savings policies. Since inception, the investment of the fund has generated $81.1 billion in realized earnings that have been appropriated to maintain the buying power of the principal through inflation-proofing, to pay the Permanent Fund dividend, and since 2018 to provide the state with predictable revenue.

Those earnings come from an increasingly sophisticated and diversified portfolio that now includes eight asset classes. Realized income from the investment activity is deposited in the Earnings Reserve Account, which is available for legislative appropriation. The annual percent of market value, or POMV, draw now provides more than $3 billion annually, an essential source of state revenue. This return is a true testament to the vision of Alaskans in the creation of an enduring intergenerational financial resource from a portion of the state’s royalties.

In 2022, APFC’s investment management again outperformed benchmarks while navigating through a year of challenging investment conditions. This performance is a testament to the savvy of our team of investment specialists and the prudent policies and asset allocation parameters set by the Board of Trustees.

As we look towards the new year, I look forward to working with the Board of Trustees: Chair Ethan Schutt, Vice-Chair Steve Rieger, Craig Richards, Gabrielle Rubenstein, and Commissioners Jason Brune, Department of Environmental Conservation, and Adam Crum, Department of Revenue in ensuring ongoing fund stewardship based on governing mandates and strategic vision.

As an independent public corporation, we hold ourselves to the highest standards of accountability for the work we do together on behalf of the Alaska Permanent Fund.

To learn more about the corporation and the fund, please visit our website at apfc.org or attend our upcoming board meeting on Dec. 7-8.

I also take this opportunity to wish all Alaskans happy holidays and a safe and prosperous new year.

Deven Mitchell is executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Now if the State of Alaska would use the statutory formula of dividends based on the earnings of the Permanent Fund from the prior five fiscal years (aka 1982 statutory Permanent Fund dividend formula) with 50% for the People and 50% for the government. After that task is done, THEN the legislature can begin the funding process for everything else.

  2. Hey, Mr. Mitchell, great fluff piece. Perhaps next time you could explain how the Fund’s policies managed to simultaneously throw Alaska’s assets away on cryptocurrency through Sequoia Capital yet still manage to avoid investing nary a dime in Alaska. More bluntly: Is speculating in cryptocurrency a better bet than putting money into anything located in Alaska? Enjoy the steaks and after-dinner port on your next trip to New York.

  3. I disagree wholeheartedly the Perm Fund has stood the test of time. It has been bastardized to be a political tool of big government.

    More, it has come under scrutiny for dealing in crypto and its hiring and firing practices.

    Once the legislature fully gets their hands on it, the Perm Fund will be gone inside 5 years.

  4. Test of time, not teat. It has become a teat for the legislature, but that’s a different conversation.

  5. Any bets on how long it will continue until the politicians figure out how to steal all of it? They sure are trying to take it from us. They want nothing but power over us.

  6. This piece reminds me of a scene from Animal House. Kevin Bacon is insisting “all is well” during the Faber riot.

    Then he gets trampled by a mob.

  7. Wow… “Fluff” is absolutely correct. Fundamental lie: “foresight for saving and investing a portion of the state’s revenue…” It’s NOT the State’s money – it belongs to the people, who graciously/grudgingly allow the State to take part of it through the statutory formula. POMV is THEFT, plain and simple. Mr. Mitchell, I trust you will do your job well – because I trust your boss – but I don’t trust lying boot-lickers. Let’s manage the Fund for maximum benefit through the statutory formula, including inflation proofing, and CUT the budget – not the PFD.

  8. Welcome to the Permanent Fund! Your first task should be to divest from all the Environmental & Social Governance portfolios, which are deliberately targeting resource development in Alaska. Start with Blackrock, which is currently mismanaging more than $170,000,000 of Alaska’s money.

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