James Kaufman: My vote on HB-3003 - Must Read Alaska
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Thursday, October 28, 2021
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James Kaufman: My vote on HB-3003

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By JAMES KAUFMAN

As an elected State Representative who has been in the middle of the big debate about the fiscal policy of the State of Alaska, including the PFD and how we fund our state government, I thought that I should provide some context to my recent votes on HB 3003.  

I am a Republican, with a bit of libertarian in me. I have looked at the PFD issue closely and seriously. In doing so, I have determined that the future of larger than recent PFD’s would require the creation of new bureaucracy and new taxes. 

This creates a challenge, because during my campaign, anyone that met me at their door, my events or heard me on television, radio, zoom meetings, etc. knew that my beliefs were (and still are) as follows:

  • I am not anti-PFD, but the state’s ability to pay according to the historical formula has been diminished by shifting and declining revenue, combined with a government that needs reformation to provide a higher quality product at a more reasonable cost.
  • Without reductions in total cost of government, PFD’s larger than those recently issued will require new taxes.
  • I am not yet in favor of ramping up taxes to feed a government that has not implemented a coherent set of improvement initiatives to get more value out of the cash being burned.
  • We need to build consensus and fix the conflicting statutes. 

I developed my positions by paying attention to the voices of my constituents and the past decisions which led us here. I was honored to have won without promising anything specific about PFD amounts, but rather that I would approach problems methodically while trying to drive our state government towards higher efficiency, better results, and more accountability.  

During the Aug. 30 House floor session, I voted to support an $1,100 dividend as opposed to larger dividends including the $2,350 amount calculated by the Governor’s proposed 5% POMV 50/50 plan and the original statutory amount which would yield more than $3,700. 

I voted the way I did because we have not yet resolved the source of the conflict, our structural fiscal imbalance. I feel that I would be breaking a campaign promise if I were to support an unbalanced budget or new broad-based taxation to close the gap. However, even with these constraints we can still have a dividend that is above recent status quo at about $1,100 and growing into the future. 

We have the recommendations of the latest Fiscal Policy Work Group, but those recommendations have not been completely agreed upon, and none of the recommendations have been implemented. Larger dividends have not been paired with possible new sources of revenue, who would pay and how tax collection would be administered. There has been talk of cost reductions but realizing those reductions will be painful and hard to achieve unless we can learn how to improve our management systems and rethink some of our processes and assumptions.  

I am not in favor of new or increased taxes if we don’t first improve how the state manages spending during periods where revenue increases. I believe that the most important and first steps are to establish a functional limit on government spending and then begin implementing improvement projects to drive out waste and increase performance. 

HJR 301/HB 3001 are my proposed policy solutions for implementing cost control by linking appropriation limits to our private sector performance. I will continue to introduce other legislation aimed squarely at my core policy focus of improving operational and quality management systems and practices within the executive branch of the State of Alaska.

In making these suggestions to avoid new taxes until we cap spending and improve government operations, I have not moved away from my conservative roots or my campaign promises, which guide me towards trying to build our private sector, promoting responsible fiscal policies, and seeking to continuously improve the quality of Alaska’s government.

Rep. James Kaufman serves in the Legislature for Alaska House District 28.

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  • Jim,
    Good campaign rhetoric, but would you please focus on this question:
    .
    The Permanent Fund has seen an increase of nearly 25% value since January. The Fund is now well over $80 Billion. You clearly state that we cannot afford the 50/50 split, nor the full statutory dividend without “raising revenue.” Please state concisely why a 25% increase in fund value in six months is not the same as raising revenue to pay out what is statutorily mandated. Thank you.

    • I guess you don’t care to respond to my question, James? Or, can you?

  • It’s the corporate bylaw. Sounds like you have a mental reservation about your oath to by bound by Alaska corporate by-laws that apply right now. Why didn’t you say that instead of the oath. You don’t get the stipend unless you agree to be bound by the rights of the people. You and yours have a conflict with the people’s statutory possessory interest they didn’t think they would have to fight their representatives to claim. Perhaps it’s time to step down. You should have been dissing this in the first week. Not in August.$$$$$$$$$!!!!!!

  • You hypocrite.

    Cut the damn government.

    He’s just as bad as Laddie Shaw making excuses for screwing the people to protect the AK swamp.

    This “man” doesn’t care about the law, how much the average Alaskan has been hurt, or the opinion of his constituents. He cares about the AK swamp.

    When he last ran, did he campaign under “I’ll rob you of 2/3 of your PFD”? No. Think of what $3800 a person would have meant to your family.

    Really believe he’s gonna oppose taxes? They’re coming. Hard and fast.

    So the question is: who got to him? The Unions? Which special interest benefits from this? He and all the rest should be investigated for corruption.

    It’s become pointless to vote in Alaska. Change the people, the new once lie to get in then do as the behind the scenes powers tell them. But there is one vote you can cast that will make a difference.

    Vote with your feet. Get the hell out of this failed state. Move to a place that either embraces your conservative values or at least isn’t so shamelessly corrupt. Leave Alaska to the frozen liberal hell it’s become.

    Get out while you can.

    • Yep, leave so my PFD will be bigger…

  • Garbage Mr Kaufman! I voted for you for the PFD’s very reason because Ms. Johnston failed us. How about paying out the statutory amount first and then the government work within its means. The statutory amount worked for many decades until recently. The PF has seen a massive growth over the last year of nearly 30%, more than enough to pay out the statutory amount. You have lost my vote come next cycle.

  • “Issuing a larger PFD requires new taxes”……..no, no it doesn’t. You politicians are the only ones who can’t comprehend this. Taxes on residents go into the govt spending trough, I guarantee you clowns will never use it to replenish the fund. You’re a clown. You chickened out.

  • Paying down our oil tax credits and a sustainable dividend without overdrawing the Earnings Reserve is the best path forward for financial stability. Governor Dunleavy’s plan to overspend now will result in more government and future higher taxes. We need more common sense legislators like Kaufman

  • Your four points are perfectly valid, but:
    “………We need to build consensus and fix the conflicting statutes……….”
    is currently, and will continue to be, quite impossible. It’s not just consensus on the PFD amount formulation, but consensus on “a government that needs reformation to provide a higher quality product at a more reasonable cost” and implementing “a coherent set of improvement initiatives to get more value out of the cash being burned” as well. You don’t even need an $80 billion pile of money on the table to attract parasites. Like ramoras on sharks, they will simply attach themselves onto their host and live on fresh scraps. The $80 billion has just attracted more of them, and knowing it’s there makes them more aggressive. Thus, I doubt that a constitutional amendment or convention will solve the problem. It will just empower more of the parasites.
    Good luck with your honorable efforts and valid points, and please excuse my cynicism, but my long life has proven to me that there are more parasites out there than ever before. I hold little hope for increased prosperity while dragging them along.

  • Let me set this straight. You are not in favor of new taxes and are willing to allow us a PFD of $1100 instead of the $3700 that the law requires. Explain to this simple old fool how that is not a tax of $2600 on every man, women and CHILD of this state. The greedy politicians are the reason that the PFD was set up in the first place. You spent you way into this financial situation because you didn’t look ahead. You can cut your way out of it just as this old fool has had to do has had to do at times. It’s not easy or pretty at times but can be done. Anybody can spend money in the good times but a person’s real character shows up in the hard times.

    • Exactly!!’

  • So individual Alaskan’s are a lower priority to you than the beaucratic government agencies?

  • With regard to your premise, are you kidding me?

  • stat·u·to·ry
    /ˈstaCHəˌtôrē/
    adjective
    required, permitted, or enacted by statute.
    “the courts did award statutory damages to each of the plaintiffs”
    US
    (of a criminal offense) carrying a penalty prescribed by statute.
    “statutory theft”

    How about we follow the law. What you are doing now is breaking the law and trying to gaslight the public that it is a great idea. That is not how this works.

  • No one has given the message to state government, the bureaucracy and the House and Senate Majorities, and the Senate Minority. Until the budget is passed each year there is talk of austerity and reductions. But no action, none. No one talks about increasing the state work week to 40 hours. I think a new paid state holiday was just added, bringing the total to maybe 14. That is just shy of 3 workweeks. All the state employees I know qualify for six weeks of actual paid vacation. Nine weeks off and a 37.5 hour workweek; no one talks about that, ever. The pandemic showed us that tele-education is the path to reducing the costs of education in those municipalities that have no property taxes. Governor Dunleavy showed us that there is $400 million in annual oil and gas property taxes the states cedes to Valdez and the North Slope Borough, which the latter uses for an executive jet fleet, a Fish and Game Department, trips to HI for Borough officials, etc. No one talks about the many money-losing businesses the state owns and runs. Medicaid has increased by hundreds of millions of dollars and the average Alaska MD now pulls down seven figures from that and from public employee health care. No, we Alaskans need half, at least half, the annual PF draw to come to us in cash so we can decide how it’s spent. The impasse in Juneau can go on for years if that is what it takes to bring realistic reductions in state government. As a candidate, Governor Dunleavy talked about taking $1 billion in General Fund out of the annual budget, and that remains a worthwhile goal.

  • All I read was, I’m not comfortable giving Alaskans their statutory dividend that was written into law. Instead I want to continue to pay out what I “the legislators” think Alaskans deserve. My plan is not $525 but is higher than last year’s dividend this way I can tell my constituents I was for paying them a larger dividend. I don’t know about the legislators but I swear I remembered reading a few columns here on how to pay out a “sizable” pfd or statutory pfd without implementing new taxes. Why does the legislators keep bringing up the fact we need new law? We need to create new law because we can’t do this without doing this? Doesn’t the law originally said that the statutory pfd should be paid out to Alaskans yearly? Just be honest, if you don’t think Alaskans should get a big pfd payout then just say it like it is, instead of dancing around the question. At least Von Imhof was honest in saying how she feels about Alaskans and the pfd.

  • This vote, just like life is all about priorities. If, as Rep. Kaufman has done in voting for state spending over the people, then it’s clear where his priorities lie. If state spending and the cuts required to get us to a sustainable budget were a priority then keeping as much money out of the hands of government and in the hands of the private sector would have been the priority. Voting for a statutory PFD is a massive lever that would have enabled discussions about how we properly fund government in this state instead of constantly dipping into the piggy bank(s).

  • Sounds to me like he wants it all three ways; a.) save the pad. B.) avoid any new taxes and c) not pressure anyone into fiscal change . Sorry but I think that’s an impossibility but it’s a convenient aspect to dealing with your constituents because you just tell each faction WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR !!

  • A reasonably well thought out position. But missing one HUGE point about the relationship between taxes and PFDs. It is morally unconscionable to tax the income of a working Alaskan to pay PFD’s to everyone else. That is a critical premise that is never heard in this socialist leaning legislature.

    • Yes, JS! Paying a PFD while instituting new taxes would simply be “robbing Peter to pay Paul”, with the added insult of creating a whole new (parasitic) state bureaucracy to collect those new statewide taxes.

  • Pretty close to spot-on.

    Paying a PFD and implementing new taxes to fund it would be the worst possible policy. The legislature meets in Juneau, so chances are high that the outcome will be nonsensical.

  • “It’s totally fine for me to literally break the law and steal more dollars from your children’s mouths in the midst of the biggest financial crisis since the great depression because otherwise they might decide to put in a tax and steal from you *legally*.

    Yeah, you’re business is probably closed, and I feel sorry for you, but think of the silver lining: I haven’t missed a single paycheck; in fact I get paid more the longer I don’t do my job!

    But we all have to remember what’s REALLY important: ensuring that we are able to continue paying government employees and union reps their 6 figure salaries without interruption, no matter the cost to you plebs.

    And hey, just tighten your belt this winter and you’ll already have your beach-bod ready for next summer. Think of all the money I’m saving you in diet shakes and cauliflower pizza crust!

    Now I know it may seem like I’m just letting the liberals get their way, but I don’t actually caucus with them yet, so that’s how you can tell I’m still a true conservative, no matter how I vote.”

  • Rep Kaufman: I understand why you voted the way you did. But this approach hasn’t worked for a long time. You know the definition: do the same thing and expect a different result. It’s the law to pay the full amount so you basically voted to break the law. If you and the three Republicans had voted to support the law maybe the rest of the legislature would have then started in earnest looking at cuts.

  • Follow the law first and pay a full dividend. Then cut state spending and put the PFD up to a public vote. You politicians put us in this mess so take one for the team and fix it otherwise let some common sense Alaskans run the state . As you have shown you and the rest of your leg wrestling crew cannot do the job.

  • Stop collecting the PFD and you will no longer be manipulated by it.

    Free yourself from the carrot and stick!

  • KAUFMAN, you are wrong and the Conservative voters will remove you from office and make our discontent with your actions concerning the PFD perfectly clear.

    You are a democratic politician too ashamed to actually be in that party.

    We will get our PFD back; with or without your stupidity.

    • The problem is, how many other “Republicans” in the legislature are secret democrats? It’s like whack a mole

  • Thank you, James.

    Personally, I believe the PFD through the Walker/Giessel/Edgmon cabal became the one and only intended obfuscation of our state’s fiscal policy and solvency as well as the stunting of what is the most incredible economic development potential of the most underutilized and restricted natural resource palette the US, if not, the world, has yet to see, while the unions, education industry and health care industry continue to fleece the state treasury.

    Consequently, I believe it is not the cumulative size of the PFD, which must be paid to Alaskans before any money is budgeted for the state, nor the state’s ability to pay according to the historical formula as revenues continue to improve as Alaska’s oil becomes more and more in demand, nor is the question of taxation a responsible discussion in light of Alaska’s oil demands and the continued growth of the Permanent Fund, but instead the repeal of SB 26, the POMV, which literally developed a two headed monster purposed for delay and contention.

    I will support the reformation of the State of Alaska starting with health care, education and
    the state’s restrictive administrative control over its people, but that is another story.

    Doesn’t anyone remember SB 91. Another marxist designed Tower of Babel.

    At the end of the day, repeal the POMV, then the rest of the state’s issues can be addressed. By doing this, Alaska’s future legislatures will be removed from the cross hairs of the circular firing squad filled with the current internal disputes and mutual recrimination.. Don’t do that and we will never get off of dead center and do Alaska the justice of its majesty and wealth

    • Michael needs to run for state-wide office.

  • Reductions will be painful to who? Your donors? The medifraud scammers? If you are serious about reducing the size and scope of government than just say so without the doublespeak. How do you feel about legislative chefs and governor’s mansions and rocket bases and crime labs and local school bonds with no moral hazard? What’s your plan, man? You sound like another b.s. artist.

  • Fund the PFD per the statutory formula and cut the state budget by limiting state government to essential services.
    Essential services do not include ANY social welfare programs.
    It is not the role of government to buy someone food or pay for their housing or provide daycare or healthcare or free phone service or subsidized internet or subsidized heating oil or any of the other socialist/communist programs you legislators have put into effect over the years to buy votes.
    End all of that and fire the bureaucracy that was created to run those programs and your budget woes will disappear overnight.
    The people of this state own the Permanent Fund, not you and your fellow legislators, and the annual payout is the share that we directed you to provide to us, the owners.
    Like it or not you work for us at our discretion so do what you’ve been told to do and stop making excuses.
    Or resign and let someone who believes in the rule of law take your place…someone with courage instead of excuses.

  • Except for the fact that they involve money, the budget and the PFD are NOT related. I suggest MRAK readers picture Rep Kaufman as a junkie who has blown the family budget on drugs and now, instead of addressing his drug fueled spending sprees, is trying to justify his continual raiding of his young children’s savings accounts and piggy-banks! If you want to display your Republican fiscal responsibility, then CUT the damn budget! The Permanent Fund was set up as a separate account for a reason. It was also purposely called the PERMANENT Fund. You seem to forget that most Alaskans are either children or over 60, so my statement that you’re stealing from children is not exaggeration.YOUR raiding of the PFD is the worst type of despicable…quit trying to justify it.

    • Perfect analogy! Just another freakin’ junkie trying to justify what he spent stolen money on.

    • Where is the LIKE button?

  • YO! Cut spending. You see the budget and you know where money is frittered away. So many of your ‘feel good’ social programs are not sustainable by giving away more and more money to buy votes. It not only breaks the budget, it creates generations dependent upon government for their every need: food, housing, health care, heat, electricity, internet, cell phones. Forcing people to live within their means may sound harsh, but creating generational dependence destroys the human spirit and society by removing personal responsibility. Remember a generation ago when they told us not to spank unruly children? They’re ANTIFA now. It is time for the weaning process to begin, not the social net to ever expand.
    And for the record, if you can take the PFD to use the money wisely, that’s fine with me. But you won’t-you will just use it to further bribe select groups to keep you reprobates in office and further sink those groups into complete state dependence. We know where that ends.

    • KE, you’ve got the right idea, but you’re missing the court imposed doctrine that the PFD is State spending – this is why we need a constitutional amendment to enshrine the statutory formula.

      • I don’t disagree. Perhaps more of the foolishness taking place in Juneau needs removed to vote of the people (since legislators so blatantly lie to get elected).

  • Look in the mirror. Are you part of the problem or part of the solution? I see no acceptable solutions coming from you.

  • So, as a RINO you talk out both sides of your mouth. No taxes, but go ahead and rob the people of their PFD because the legislature can’t honor the original deal or fix it according to the Governors solution, or control their greed for more and bigger govt and create a budget that meets the needs of Alaskans. Yup, that’s a RINO. No PFD amounts to the same thing as taxes, big taxes, to the average Alaskan. This way you’re even taxing the children too. Alaskans will remember your name come next election.

    • As a life-long Republican myself I believe that so long as he sticks with no taxes he is an honest man and a Republican, whether or not I agree with him on the PFD and other details.

      • Problem is you did just get “taxed” by this move. Not taxed in the normal way you think, but still yet, they “taxed” you of $2200.00 that you are not going to get, but should have.

  • RINOs making pathetic excuses is not or ever will be news.

  • It’s sad that we have representatives that just don’t understand economics.

  • Believe me, you have no libertarian in you. Communist, maybe. Socialist for sure. Lots of democrat, but I see no sign of libertarian.

  • Same old lies. “Not sustainable.” He wants Alaskans to forget that the vote is about this year’s dividend, not future dividends. This year the fund earned over 18 billion dollars, and 4 billion dollars were placed into the corpus. He refuses to follow statute and pay full dividend, then whines to Alaskans, hoping they will let him stay in office. All this while the permanent fund is experiencing record profits, and Alaskans are experiencing record devastation. One unemployed Alaskan I know was hoping to pay off medical bills with his dividend. The governor should veto the whole mess and pay the statutory dividend, period. Also, all Alaskans need to clean up this mess by voting yes next year for the constitutional convention.

  • Representative Kaufman, You have behaved in a way that confirms why I voted for you. You are doing well as my representative. The notion of paying a PFD while the State of Alaska (SOA) is in a dire fiscal situation is beyond ridiculous. The commenters in this thread remind me of those willing to kill the Golden Goose for even more gold eggs. Fundamentally the SOA cannot pay a statutory PFD without harming the Permanent Fund or introducing new taxes. The idea of new taxes from one SOA bureaucracy so another SOA can distribute PFDs is beyond stupid. I believe likewise about enshrining the PFD in the constitution. Perhaps we should consider a needs based annual distribution, but not the same amount of PFD to all regardless of one’s personal situation, We need to have a conversation about how to ween Alaskan’s from the failed experiment of the PFD. In the meantime Representative Kaufman keep doing good work in the legislature.

    • Yeah, don’t the government already have programs set up based on needs of individuals already? Oh yeah, it’s called the welfare program. Why do folks think that because one individual might have less than another means they are entitled to more? Or if someone have more they are entitled to less? I don’t get it.

      • I take it Mr. Smith, that you don’t know how to do arithmetic. You too, Congressman. The State is NOT in a dire fiscal situation, but we do have a huge problem controlling spending. CUT, not just what you and the bureaucrats think you want to spend, CUT the size of government. Yes, these cuts will be painful, and some bureaucratic leeches will starve or leave. Get this straight also – the PFD is NOT the State’s money to spend – it belongs to the people – therefore, and reduction in the statutory (that does mean what the law demands legislative thieves), any reduction in the statutory PFD is the most regressive and unfair TAX of all. Fill the pipeline, cut spending, stop stealing the PFD.

    • The sole justification of government is to DEFEND the rights of the freemen by the consent of we the people and inhabitants of the country. The people have possessory property interests in the PFD. You can’t just take their possessions because you feel deep in your dark soul you know better than they. You don’t. ALL men are free and equal. NO ONE MAN OR GOUP OF MEN have special privileges all about delimiting another man’s possessory rights. If we do we lose more than fiat dollars. We lose our republic while “they” this crew is on the clock( and their job is to DEFEND never OFFEND the people’s rights) are ultra vires.

  • Blame Walker, blame Giessel, blame the Legislature. All you finger-pointers need to point at yourself!
    There is not any responsible way to pay a statutory Dividend. Your solution? Raid the Permanent Fund?
    Time to smell the coffee and wake up!

    • LMFAO. This will be Kaufman’s last guest experience on MRAK. Economics 001 class begins at UAA next week. Enrollment should be statutorily mandatory for all legislators.

      • The last thing you want is for Alaska’s legislators to get their economic education from that nest of leftist vipers at UAA.

        • Great point, Art. Applies to History classes too. I dropped my History class from Terrence Cole at UAF back in the mid-90’s.
          He was one of the most confused and dishonest partisan professors I ever had in college. A befudddling, bumbling, Democrat who wanted us to hang on every hateful word he had about Republicans. His identical twin, Dermot Cole, has tried to revive his brother’s legacy through an idiot’s blog. Another vile partisan hack who appears to be ready for a dementia ward.

    • No, Chris. It is the junkies in the legislature addicted to spending every dollar that they can lay their hands on. And like good junkies they make sure to spread a few pennies around to their special interests (the unionized employees racket, the education racket, the healthcare racket, and the welfare racket come first, as Art states below). The worst part is that they do a great disservice to these groups through their addiction, creating an unsustainable dependence that will come home to roost after they burn through every dollar. There is plenty of money, just no spine.

    • So for those few who claims there’s no responsible way to pay out a statutory pfd and we should start blaming ourselves as the reason why. I would like to point out that none of this was a problem until Walker screwed everything up. But let’s say Alaskans do give up their pfd for the greater good of Alaska budget problem. What makes you think this will solve Alaska budget crisis? I find it hard to believe that if the legislators stop paying Alaskans a dividend that they’ll somehow manage to start balancing Alaska’s budget responsibly. What I think they’ll do instead is start bloating the programs that already exist even more until a few year into the future when the state do actually run out of funds. Then they’ll come right back to the people and say the State is broke and we’ll need to start implementing new taxes to fund government. What we have in Alaska isn’t a money problem it’s a spending problem. With Kaufman stating himself “ There has been talk of cost reductions but realizing those reductions will be painful and hard to achieve unless we can learn how to improve our management systems and rethink some of our processes and assumptions.” The legislators don’t want to reduce programs and cut the budget. They’re looking at new ways to fund an already bloated and surely growing government. Then again I’m not a smart person and these are just my assumptions.

    • It is, or at least was, the law. At least half of the state budget is not legally binding. It is a collection of vanity and vote buying pork.

      Do you support allowing elected officials to break the law? Seems so.

      By endorsing the concept of elected officials violating their oaths of office to not fund legal obligations you don’t like makes you a classic fascist with a large helping of oligarchy.

      It’s not a good look, but one you have repeatedly endorsed.

      Wanna see why Alaska is a sick, dysfunctional state? Look in your mirror.

    • There is not a responsible way to reply to your ignorance Chris. Of course there is a way – it just won’t get past the unions and the legislators calling the shots. Throw the bums out. At least James Kaufman is trying to tell us what he is thinking – I strongly disagree with his conclusion. His conclusion sounds almost word-for-word what Cathy Giessel said a few years ago, when she too lacked the courage to stand up to the bureaucrats and the welfare state. Want to get rid of the homeless problem? – Stop enabling them! That alone will save a lot of money. Want to make sure they don’t steal your barbeque propane? Bust them and make the penalties very unpleasant. Or even better, just buy them a one-way ticket to California and make sure they get on the plane! Forgive my cynicism, but there are lots of ways we can cut spending without taxes or cutting the PFD. They will be painful, but cut we must.

  • So the special interests got to you as well. You should be ashamed of yourself for lying to your constituents.

  • Further proof that 99% of Alaska Republicans are secretly socialist

  • James, you spent a couple of hours every week with some of the best conservative/Republican minds in Alaska. Cumulatively, we had a couple hundred years at least in public service at pretty high levels; you had none. We thought you were one of us. Now what Juneau does to people is there for all to see. Jimmy, we hardly knew ye.

    If you experienced or have read Alaska History, you know that the whole purpose of the Alaska Permanent Fund and the later established Dividend program was to keep non-renewable resource revenue out of the General Fund and out of the hands of a grasping Legislature. Had you been here in those days, you’d know that the question on everyone’s lips in the ’70s was, “what happened to the $900 million?” At a time when the total State budget was only a couple hundred million dollars, we got paid almost a billion bucks for the Prudhoe Bay leases. By the mid-70s, Alaskans were wondering what happened to all that money. Hammond, Tillion, and others posited that we had to do something to keep some of the non-renewable revenue away from the politicians and we passed the constitutional amendment establishing the Permanent Fund. A few years later, the Legislature established the Dividend to give the citizenry more of a stake in the well-being of the Fund.

    The whole idea of the Fund and the Dividend is that the People’s share comes off the top. We put money in the Fund, we pay the administrative costs of the Fund, and then we give the People their Dividend. Whatever is left after that from the earnings of the Fund is available to the Legislature for appropriation for government operations, always has been, but has rarely been used for such. For most of Alaska’s history, the earnings after the Dividend was paid was simply appropriated to the corpus of the Fund to make it stronger. Even in the dark days of the mid-Eighties oil price crash, the government lived on recurring revenue and the earnings went back to the Fund.

    The government gets what’s left after the People get theirs. You bought the Democrat/lobbyist line that the unionized employees racket, the education racket, the healthcare racket, and the welfare racket come first. The People come first, James.

    • Art Chance, at least some of the “old guard” Alaskans remember the true history of the PFD. Thank you for sharing!

    • I was in Alaska in 74 & 75. When I read what Hammond was doing I recall the PF was intended as a rainy day fund. The dividend piece never made any sense. I still think it is nothing more than payola, embraced by slick politicians just before the general election. It has sucked all of the oxygen out of the room so that nothing else matters.
      As I was moving back for good in 92 I thought I would be one of the only Alaskans who paid state income taxes but never received a PFD. I would have been proud of that. Oh well, never underestimate the power of free money.
      Money is a renewable resource and PF earnings are the best renewable resource we have of any consequence. It is a public resource that should be used for public purposes. Dividends should be ever be paid.

      • Free money…so you would support the total elimination of all social welfare programs and other government funded “free money” giveaways that benefit those who didn’t earn it? Glad you’re on board!
        FYI…the PFD isn’t “free money” …it’s the earnings from the natural resources of the state that are actually owned by the people of Alaska.
        It’s no more a giveaway than the dividend you might receive from an investment in corporate stock or the like…or maybe you think that’s some kind of corporate welfare paid out to the owners of the company…???

    • Absolutely! All the rackets that you state amount to nothing more than buying votes to keep yourself in power with the people’s money.

      • How are the earnings on the PF investments not attributable to a positive revenue stream against the value of the account from one year previous? Growth of the fund has to be a consideration, or a factor, as to how much the dividend will be in any given year.

        • We all know the problem:
          .
          TOO MUCH GOVERNMENT.
          .
          The bureaucracy grew 10 or 20 times during and after Hammond. This is where our oil royalties money went. This is not frickin rocket science. Apparently Mr. Kaufman doesn’t get it, or, he decided to make friends with the Democrats.

          • Art Chance just wrote the accurate version of what Kaufman should have written about.
            Art…….can you run for Kaufman’s House seat?

    • Where’s the “LIKE” button?

    • Livin in the past Art. Livin in the past. Thanks for the history lesson. Time for that was 30, 20 and 10 years ago. Real grown ups have to deal with today’s problems.

      But this definitely made me LOL….. “you spent a couple of hours every week with some of the best conservative/Republican minds in Alaska.”

      Sadly, that is probably a true state. As a real conservative, this is a particularly devastating realization. The truth is the R party in AK is one of the absolute dumbest I have ever encountered. What a bunch of socialist fools.

      • Well, genius, I was dealing with the issue twenty and thirty years ago. I went to work in State Labor Relations a few weeks after newly elected Gov. Cowper said “all bets are off” in response to the mid-80s oil price crash. Through the Democrat Cowper and Knowles administrations and the nominally Republican Hickel and Murkowski administrations we managed to keep the General Fund Operating Budget flat until the price of oil ticked up in SFY 2005 – 2006 and Sarah Palin and Tony Knowles started a pander bidding war to which we in the Murkowski Administration responded a bit in the SFY 06 and 07 budgets. With Palin and her “true conservative” friends, the budgets skyrocketed, but I had washed my hands of it June 30, 2006, and let it be other people’s headache.

      • Today’s problems are this:
        .
        Leftists and Democrats have penetrated the education system through Leftist teacher’s unions and have dumbed-down the students through Leftist indoctrination. That simple!
        .
        Now we have two generations of people who can’t think on their own two feet because they never learned critical thinking skills from grade school through college.

    • Cut the Tier 1 entitlements starting with Art’s. Art, have you ever made a dime in Alaska that wasn’t at the government’s expense?

      • I’ve spent about as much of my working life in the private sector as in government. What you don’t understand is that legacy tier PERS isn’t an entitlement; just like Social Security, you pay into it and we paid every dime the State asked us to pay. Despite what you heard on talk radio, the State has never bargained retirement benefits with any union. The retiree health insurance that the talk radio experts like to complain about is only your primary insurance until you turn 65 when you are compelled to enroll in Medicare. Try finding a reputable primary care physician in Alaska that will accept Medicare. Other than some advisory committees composed of plan participants, the State has always managed PERS as it chose, and there have been times it didn’t choose well.

        In exchange for Tier 1 PERS, I got to be the lowest paid person in the room whenever I met with my union rep peers or when I met with many of my management side peers from other unionized states.

  • Who do you think you’re kidding?
    Just follow the law.
    Execute the statutory dividend And then change the law if you think it needs to be changed. But don’t paint yourself for some Noble Lone Ranger while you continue to advocate, thru your actions, breaking the law.

  • Bull.

  • Hooo boy….

    If I had to rank priorities, I’d certainly prioritize “no new taxes” over a $3K, $2.3K, or no dividend.

    However, as a resident of Rep. Kaufman’s district, I voted for him (and donated a not-inconsiderable amount) to represent my views in JNU: and this means: 1) Voting against a budget that exceeds Alaska’s income; and 2) Supporting the statutory formula because it’s the law.

    The fact that there will be a budget that Alaska can’t afford means he should vote against that budget, not that his duty is to find ways to fund the budget. It would be great to work with the spending group to identify potential savings, sources of revenue, etc. and try to form a consensus, but at the end of the day, regardless of any success or lack thereof in addressing the financial problems, Rep. Kaufman was elected to VOTE as his constituents would like…and he hasn’t done that.

    …and I don’t see any notable efforts to reduce spending.

    Disappointing.

  • In all of your load of BS, You’ve not once mentioned a reduction of the state budget. When times were good, you employees (yes, you are employees elected by voters) ramped up spending and social programs. When times are bad, that’s when you pull out the boogieman (sales/income taxes) and threaten your employers (voters) with a reduction of their resources to sustain the sacred cow called “government”.

    Theft by taxes is still theft. The difference in the theft is the tools. You use a pen, common criminals use a ski mask and a gun. You are still the same.

  • Those are piss poor excuses for not wanting to follow the law, you need to do so until it is changed or you’re voted out of office. You work for the people of Alaska, not the government.

  • The time has come, to place the legislature out of Juneau once and for all. It can move to any of the areas in Alaska on the road system. Anchorage, Kenai, Wasilla, Willow, Fairbanks or even Glennallen. It is high time we stand against this hide n seek BS that has been occurring since the 80’s. The Gov can stay in Juneau, but it is high time that the legislatures have to face their constituents for their fraudulent actions!

  • It is past time for our legislators to make the HARD decisions, the PAINFUL decisions, the UNPOPULAR decisions! That is what you were hired to do, and make no mistake, you were hired and can be fired for refusing to do your job!

  • Vote with your feet. Leave the hellhole called Alaska while you can.

    This state is sick.

    • You lead the way!

  • If you live in Kaufman’s district, do the following;

    1-Crash his phone banks demanding his resignation.
    2-If he has a local office, go there and demand he come speak to his constituents. Be peaceful, polite, but don’t take no for an answer.
    3-Start a recall.
    4-If you see him, turn your back on him and shun him. Don’t harass, pretend he doesn’t exist.
    5-Demand a refund if you contributed to his campaign.

    • Nah. I live in his district and I think I will give him more money. He’s doing an awesome job. He has a brain that still works and is willing to put in the time to actually try to save this state. Why don’t you…

      1) Get a Coffee Can
      2) Make a sign about about why you deserve help
      3) Find a street corner
      4) Beg… because the state doesn’t owe you anything

      • Oh look. A new troll.

    • Are you in Kindergarten?

  • Piss poor excuses for not wanting to follow the law, James. You insult the intelligence of Alaskans with your weak doublespeak excuses and BS. It is easy to see right through your lack of wisdom. He needs to be voted out!

  • A democrat, (socialist), by any other name.

  • LOL republican with a little libertarian, what a fool. This state does not have a revenue problem. It has a SPENDING problem.

  • Why do you not look at a reduced dividend as a tax? It is money we the people can spend discretionally rather than the legislators and government. People first, government second. If you want to move the goal posts (or reduce the amount we are taxing individuals) then some proposed formulas (including the governor’s) need to happen. This ‘ownership state’ populous sees it as taxing or taking .

  • Weasel words Mr. Kaufman. You, sir have succumbed to the Juneau lobbyist echo chamber. The simplest way to cut the budget is to follow the statute and PAY THE PEOPLE FIRST, the way it has been since the PFD inception. Manage government with what you would have had, had Walker and Judge Bolger not screwed the people over.

    • Something I’ve long been curious about: what happens to legislators once in Juneau.

      Are they drugged and have compromising pics taken with honey traps?

      Are they shaken down by the mafia?

      Brainwashing?

      Are they locked into rooms with lobbyists and given psychological torture until they break?

      It doesn’t make sense. Even accepting half of what they said to get elected is a lie.

      Even accepting Juneau is a kind of political Rumspringa for politicians, the flip rate is way out of balance with reality. If we had a functional federal government, the entire legislature should be the subject of a RICO investigation.

  • Congressman, I will give you this – you had the cojones to write this column. Your excuses leave me angry, just as most of the commenters here. A suggestion: don’t drink the water in Juneau, bring it with you from your district. ‘Nother suggestion: don’t be afraid to cut whole programs or recent additions to programs like Walker’s Medicaid expansion. Face down the public sector unions – the average State salary and benefits package is way too generous – make them understand and agree to cut the compensation packages or face layoffs. Pay the STATUTORY PFD FIRST – the State gets the crumbs, not the people – and “new taxes” aren’t needed or desired. You owe every eligible person the full amount of the PFDs stolen plus interest, otherwise, you are merely a criminal law breaker – you and every Alaska legislator.

    • It’s quite the indictment of our education system so many people don’t understand the word statutory.

      Not to mention have zero understanding of the history and intent of the PFD.

      The state government didn’t get this out of control until Palin’s time. Parnell didn’t help either signing budgets into law he admitted were unsustainable.

  • What is it with you fake fiscal conservatives and the PFD? You’re like little children who can’t grow out of an allowance. This is real life. The state’s revenues are in the toilet. But you want your handout. You accuse James of being succumb to an echo chamber, I know James, he doesn’t care about the office or getting re-elected. He is sacrificing his retirement to try to help a place he has fallen in love with. You idiots have no clue how stupid you sound. Give me, give me, give me! It’s “our” money. “We own it!” “Its ours.” Really? How long have you been Alaska residents? You live here, drive the roads, use the services, for free right? No taxes at all from the state? While the state’s revenue is in the tank you still want your petty cash too? Why? For living here? Go home. Rhe vast majority of you were not born here. Those who were, I have a message for you. Things change, eval with it. If a 2-3k dividend is more important to you than balancing the state budget with some services still in tact without enacting new state income taxes then try and find some where else that can give that to you. Why don’t you go to the the other fairyland where people pay you to live while providing lots of free services despite no money coming in. I am a real Republican and I approve this message. Thank you James for giving up your time and trying to help these juvenile beggars who think they are conservative.

    • Beggar:
      Spoken like a true Left-wing trough-feeder, and a Marxist follower who wants to be nannied by your government boss, or maybe your Democrat party chair. Go call your mama and ask for a bedroom in the basement and some free groceries too. Do you still ask for permission slips to be excused so you can use the bathroom? Go wipe your tail with government approved TP and be sure to take your shot before coming back here to opine.

    • Funny thing. I was born here. You?

  • Mr Kaufman, What is the PLAN? Nice letter appealing to the readers, like a political campaign. But where is the action taken and the results ? Your in the drivers seat and the car has not left the garage yet. Do something besides Talk ! This is one of the worst legislatives sessions ever.

  • Hold the line on NO TAXES !!!

    We have failed to be able to reduce our addiction on spending and making the tough choices to reduce spending on everyone’s special interest. Everybody wants their “free money” and fail to recognize the we have a huge budget deficit to resolve. Our representatives have failed to cut the state spending, and now it’s time to pay the Piper. You can’t have it both ways!!!

    It doesn’t make any sense to write everyone fat checks, and then turn around and implement taxes so we can cover those checks.

    No new taxes…

  • Very true, now it is up to us to correct that problem by watching our schoolboards(local and state) and fully pressure them to do what is right, not what is easy. Vote the conservatives in and vote the leftists out!

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