Jim Crawford: Legislature nears end of session, and Alaskans still getting crumbs from the Permanent Fund

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By JIM CRAWFORD

For another session, the Alaska Legislature has failed to write a fiscal plan for the State of Alaska. Time and time again, the two houses disagree and neither has the numbers to force the issue. What’s the cost? To Alaskans living through the worst inflation in decades, it’s steep. Thousands of dollars in unexpected and unjustified expenses are the result of federal, state, and local hyper-spending.  

Those of us who served Alaska as members of the Investment Advisory Committee at the request of Gov. Jay Hammond worked out a system that complied with the governor’s demand for simple fairness. The dividend distribution first failed, but as the attorneys soon understood, Alaskans were both knowledgeable of the dividend issue and the availability of the funds to pay it. We went back to the drawing board and wrote the 50/50 approach to spending. 

Our Legislature, particularly, those in the Senate, seem to find new ways to hide the money each year. The statutory formulae we came up with was earnings over a five-year period, minus inflation to keep the Fund whole from the ravages of inflation, then split 50/50.  We did that knowing that those who wanted a 100% distribution from earnings and those that wanted 100% distribution through the capital or operating budget would not be fully satisfied.  But we hoped they would see the compromise as fair.  We required averaging over a five-year earnings period so as to put a stamp of conservative caution on the dividends. It was sustainable since it was based on earnings. It worked well for decades. Then Gov. Bill Walker refused to honor the deal.          

Remember the hope and fun of guessing what the dividend would be? Remember when the sales by retailers would be splashed about demonstrating that every Alaskan had done well by the Permanent Fund. We had our investment fund and with few exceptions, the Fund made money each year.   

Then, as is normal, the price of oil went in the tank and jealousy replaced fairness.  Over the last few years, the mantra of the left was to get as much as it could from the Fund.  I call the strategy “crumbs” since the liberals want to spend every dime it can while shorting the citizenry of their just earnings.  

Last year, the liberals wanted “just $600 million” in new taxes and would then agree to pay the full dividend. With the war and inflation and the pandemic, the State of Alaska picked up another $3.4 billion instead but the “crumbs” theory still prevailed. 

The conservatives know it’s the people’s money, not theirs. They are stewards of our wealth. The liberals, not so much.

Last year, the Alaska Permanent Fund earned $19.4 billion, according to the published financial statements. Did you get a dividend that reflected that increase in earnings? Even averaged over five years? Of course not. The Legislature uses a percentage of market value (POMV) to create the rationale for “crumbs.” Earnings no longer mattered.  

On top of that, they tinkered with the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAF), which have been the bedrock of accounting principles since I was a cub banker. The financial statements disclosure marks the difference at $11.4 billion in unrealized earnings of the Permanent Fund and cuts your dividend accordingly. It would be relatively easy to realize the earnings and raise the dividend accordingly.  

Government should not be playing games with our money. We need a transparent and steady means of calculating our investment earnings and the dividend. With a projected budget surplus of $3.4 billion for this upcoming fiscal year, it’s time to show our legislators that we understand their game and have had enough. Partisanship doesn’t matter now. It’s time for Legislators to determine who writes the rules — the people or the special interests. 

Keep an eye on the NEA’s demand to double its budget this fiscal year. Incredible. They want two years up front. It’s not because of the results delivered for our kids. The tests show that our third graders are failing at reading, writing, and arithmetic.  The NEA and their lackeys want to double the education budget and to give the “crumbs” to the people.      

If the Legislature can’t get the job done through regular and special sessions, it is time to admit that failure and convene the constitutional convention, which was anticipated in our original Constitution.  

Our founding fathers and mothers decided that every 10 years, the people could amend the Alaska Constitution to keep it fair. Voting for the constitutional convention allows us to correct the excesses and lay out what we determined as fairness this year and the future.  

The people deserve more than “crumbs” from the Legislature.     

Jim Crawford is the former President of Permanent Fund Defenders, pfdak.com, an Alaska based educational nonprofit corporation based in Eagle River, Alaska.  Jim is a third generation, lifelong Alaskan who co-chaired the Alaskans Just Say No campaign to stop the raid on the Permanent Fund in 1999.  He also served Gov. Jay Hammond as a member of the Investment Advisory Committee, which formed the investment and corporate strategy of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation in 1975.   

16 COMMENTS

  1. I can find nothing redeeming about the people and groups who want to take each Alaskan’s PFD. I find them utterly contemptible and the epitome of all that is worst, in mankind.

  2. The legislature has become a pox on the people rather than the stewards they were elected to be. If there is a constitutional convention, there should be a removal mechanism for those that continually increase their personal wealth at the expense of Alaskans.

  3. It would be safe to assume they won’t give a fair dividend, it is very clear, in your face clear. Why? I believe very few give a crap, no one votes, there’s a tiny majority that does and it’s pathetic and those in office know it. Voter turnout in this state sucks.

  4. Jim,
    You know what this is about. The Left Democrats want Dunleavy gone. They can’t afford to let him sign legislation authorizing $3750.00 statutory payment to each Alaskan. Democrats and RINOs prefer that they be on welfare, not dividend-fare. Besides, Dunleavy is buddies with Trump. The Democrats want their pedophile-enabler Walker back in the governor’s mansion. They love Communist Chinese taking over our resources so that carbon fuels get moved away from their little arctic paradise. This is all part of their 2022 script, which includes Lisa Murkowski, a supposed Catholic, assisting the femi-Nazis kill off their babies.

  5. I really enjoy reading reasonable writings by people in the know regarding our PFD. No elaboration, just the basics. But at the end of the day the one thing that they don’t tell you is that
    THE LEGISLATURE DOESN’T CARE.
    Not only do they not care, they also know there is nothing we can do about it.
    But I do still enjoy reading their thoughts.

  6. “Our founding fathers and mothers decided that every 10 years, the people could amend the Alaska Constitution to keep it fair.” We can amend the Alaska Constitution any time, we don’t need to wait 10 years to do so. A constitutional convention allows for much more than just amending the constitution, it opens it for complete revision or rewriting.

    Article 13 Section 4 of the Alaska Constitution states “Constitutional conventions shall have plenary power to amend or revise the constitution, subject only to ratification by the people. No call for a constitutional convention shall limit these powers of the convention.”

    I’m still waiting for proponents of the con-con to address this point, why won’t they address it? Try and convince those of us who might be swayed that potentially blowing the whole thing up is worth doing so. The preamble of The Declaration of Independence has a section that I’ve always found inspiring “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

    • Steve-O, why do you always leave off the part of the Constitution that addresses your concerns, that each proposed amendment must be voted on by the people? Multiple times you have claimed to be inspired by the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, quoting the right and duty of the people to throw off such government. Perhaps the constitutional convention is our chance to avoid the overthrow of the state government that you seem fixated upon. That seems to be an argument in favor of the convention.

      • Natural,
        I think you need to re-read what I wrote and what I quoted. Specifically the part of Article 13 Section 4 of the Alaska Constitution that says “subject only to ratification by the people”…I have yet to leave that part off, it’s kind of an integral part of the whole process. You know that ratification by the people means voted on by the people, right? A constitutional convention is a chance at an overthrow of the state government, not a chance to avoid an overthrow of government…it’s the whole point of why people are pushing for it.

        I’m still undecided as to how I will vote, but when those pushing the con-con will not address the most pressing and obvious issue at hand it makes me question their motives.

  7. Good piece and thanks for getting it out…it should be front page on Alaskan News papers. The damage to Alaskans across the State continues to mount and maybe one day soon the dam will break and the voters will wise up and clean out that nest of no goods in Juneau.

  8. It’s simple. Our rulers simply do not care. Regardless of party affiliation, they do not care.

    We exist to serve them, not them to serve us. Short of a Constitutional Convention we will never get a full PFD ever again. But we are gonna get an income tax.

    Don’t believe me? Wait and see. The push gains steam every year. Soon the whole Perm Fund won’t be enough for them.

    The same people who tell me it’ll never happen also told me Walkers theft of the PFD would never stand.

    They don’t care, and never will. They are our “betters”. Just ask them-most will tell you. Isn’t that right, Natasha?

  9. That’s what we get with all the non informed Alaskan voters out there. I would think if there was a vote to end the PFD or restore the payout as it was we would get a good voter turn out. What it hits people in the pocket hard enough they will wake up.

  10. The Fund will continue to double in value every ten years, and the tyrants in Juneau will institute an income tax, and they will continue to steal from the fund.
    This will all happen while they continue gaslighting the public, because they believe you are stupid.
    And this will all happen while the public flaunts their apathy by continually posting dismal voting turnout numbers.
    We cannot vote these people out of office if 80% of the voters are too lazy and apathetic to give up one hour of their time every two years, to get out and vote…….

    • Have you considered that maybe more people are voting, but their ballots are not being counted? And just what are all the bar codes on the ballot return envelope about? Sorting? There’s no evidence of cheating, but there sure is opportunity.

  11. Thank you to Paula and the mad
    Hatter!! They don’t care and people just line vote they see an hour or a D and they vote they don’t use their heads they’re too lazy but then they’re the first to come up to complain I miss the old Alaska very much

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