By FRITZ PETTYJOHN
Your $3,268 dividend to be direct-deposited in your bank account next week, the largest in history, was a close-run thing. Since 2016, the size of the PFD has been an annual battle in the Legislature, and is the most divisive issue it faces.
The key vote this year was in the State Senate, where it squeaked through on a 10-9 vote. This is no way to run a railroad. But legislative opponents of the PFD aren’t going away. They think they can spend money more wisely, and for the greater good, than the people can.
We simply can’t trust any Legislature with this responsibility. The dividend calculation needs to go in to the Alaska Constitution.
The group seeking to do that, by campaigning for Prop 1, “Convention YES,” is holding rallies across Alaska on Tuesday, Sept. 20, when the distribution of the dividends begins. Rallies will be held at 6 pm in Fairbanks, Mat-Su, Anchorage, and Kenai. For more info go to the ConventionYes website.
These rallies are to thank and acknowledge those legislators who fought for the dividend. They’re also to recognize the legislative candidates who support Prop 1, which would allow the people to vote on preserving the dividend by putting it in the Alaska Constitution. Only then will Alaskans be assured of future dividends. The Legislature has demonstrated, repeatedly, that it can’t be trusted with this job.
Many thanks are also due to Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who has fought for the dividend throughout his term. He’s indicated support for Prop 1, and is expected to attend the rally in Fairbanks. He understands that the PFD needs to go into the Constitution. And he knows that can only happen at a Convention. That’s the political reality.
Based on reporting in Must Read Alaska, Gov. Mike Dunleavy appears poised for reelection, based largely on his unstinting advocacy on behalf of the PFD. The people, more than ever, want their share of Alaska’s oil wealth. Candidates supporting it have an edge all over the state. If you support the dividend, you should support, and advocate for, Prop 1. This is especially true for Dunleavy. The dividend is Jay Hammond’s legacy. Its protection, and perpetuation, in the Constitution, can be Dunleavy’s.
The opponents of Prop 1, lavishly funded by the outside dark money group the Sixteen-thirty Fund, claim to be defending the Constitution. This Sixteen-Thirty Fund is a front for George Soros and his fellow foreign billionaires, who oppose Prop 1 because it’s a mini-version, at the state level, of Article V of the United States Constitution. Soros wants nothing less than the downfall of the United States, and he doesn’t want the reforms possible under Article V. He’s afraid they’ll work, and strengthen this country. He’s afraid of an Alaskan convention, because it would succeed, and be a model for the whole country.
But Prop 1 is all about Alaska, the Permanent Fund dividend, and its future. What the opposition is really afraid of is the voice of the people — expressed in the vote for the Convention, the selection of delegates, and their final verdict on any amendment the Convention proposes.
There are other issues that may be addressed at a convention, if it is called. The delegates, prominent and trusted citizens from across the state, will decide. They will debate, deliberate, and attempt to reach a consensus which can be ratified by a vote of the people. Those who are afraid of a convention are afraid they are in a political minority, and don’t want the voice of the people heard. If the people of this state are afraid of a convention, they’re afraid of themselves.
For 40 years Alaskans have been receiving annual dividends. Gov. Jay Hammond started the program when Alaska was in an economic boom. Money was flowing from Prudhoe Bay, and the entire railbelt was prospering as never before. But the rural areas, the bush, the people in the villages were largely left out. These were the people Hammond cared most deeply about, and he was determined that they get some small share of the bounty. They, and all Alaskans, deserve to continue to receive this benefit. Right now, it’s needed more than ever.
This is not a Republican or Democrat issue, or conservative and liberal, or urban and rural. It’s about Alaskans and their families, struggling to get by in these difficult times. The $3,268 that every man, woman and child will receive transcends all political boundaries. It’s money that they want, and need. And it’s money a lot of special interests would rather have for themselves.
Proposition One is a referendum on a constitutional convention. The framers of Alaska’s Constitution were political progressives, heirs to the great political reformers who transformed American politics in the early 20th Century. They weren’t afraid of the people. They believed in empowering the people, because they trusted them. They wanted the people to have the chance, every 10 years, of proposing needed constitutional amendments that the Legislature refused to propose — amendments that would curtail the power of the legislature, or control its behavior.
On Nov. 8 the question for Alaskans is, do they trust themselves? If they do, Prop 1 will pass, a constitutional convention will be held, and the people of this state will then vote on whether they want the PFD to be there for generations yet unborn.
Fritz Pettyjohn is on the steering committee of ConventionYES, and served in the Alaska legislature in the 1980’s.