Jim Crawford: Who to vote for? Those who will protect our Permanent Fund dividends

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By JIM CRAWFORD

Given the passage of Ballot Measure 2 last year, which gave us the insanity of rank choice voting, the safe world that Alaska voters knew, exploded.  

Going from a partisan primary, which identified conservatives and liberals to the public, to a completely nonpartisan primary race where no one can really tell who is what, is at least a sea change. The new system leaves many voters adrift without their rudders and anchors, depending upon candidates to provide truthful information on their history and their current stands on issues.  

Most important to Alaskans is the formulation and implementation of the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend. It is the capitalization of the private sector in Alaska and the reward for our savings plan.  You could call it Alaskans retirement fund.  

The good news is that each qualified Alaskan will receive $3,200 this year. The bad news is the Legislature’s majorities refused to change the statute, which requires 50% of the earnings of the Alaska Permanent Fund to be paid in a dividend to its owners. Each Alaskan who qualifies for the dividend and intends to remain in Alaska should be an advocate for protecting the dividend. The polls prove that high-water mark.  

The refusal of incumbents or challengers to be advocates for the people’s dividend is the new benchmark which should be used by voters to judge for whom to vote. Is it a misrepresentation to tell the voters that you will be an advocate for a full dividend, and then vote to not provide the funds to do so? Don’t forget that we have a $3.2 billion surplus this budget year.   

Those of us fortunate enough to have served with Gov. Jay Hammond, the father of the Alaska Permanent Fund, remember his purpose in establishing the dividend. He wanted to build a system of political support to keep the ever greedy from raiding the fund through appropriations. 

Politics and particularly partisan politics have a bad reputation. But in my decades as an officer of the Alaska Republican Party, I’ve learned that the partisan advocacy works well for most people. For example, most Republicans qualify as being conservatives either social or fiscal conservatives or both.  

Most Democrats are liberal, either moderates or extremes. As former president of Permanent Fund Defenders, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group, I established a new personal constraint for whom receives my vote: I won’t vote for a candidate who advocates or votes for a budget that does not contain at least 50% of earnings of the Alaska Permanent Fund.  

The purpose of the dividend then and now is to grow the private sector and private jobs. The public sector, as illustrated by the Alaska National Education Association, has enough from the public purse. Alaska education funding is a great example of Legislative excess. The NEA in the last session of the Legislature obtained funding to fill the total Fiscal Year 2023-year budget of $4.528 billion dollars. Then the Legislature voted to extend full funding of Fiscal Year 2024 operating and capital budgets for each year. 

How’s that for political juice? School debt reimbursement from prior years was also appropriated to the tune of $425 million.  

The Higher Education Investment Fund was also authorized to capitalize $395 million and establish one more unconstitutional dedicated fund. Our kids test 49th out of 50 in the nation in reading and math scores, while the Legislators increased the formulae funding for FY 2024 by another $30 million. I am not anti-education, but I do think that spending should be directly accountable with achievement and results with our kids.  

Some legislators want to put 100% of Permanent Fund earnings into state government. They made major progress in the last Legislature.  Fortunately, Gov. Mike Dunleavy insisted upon a higher dividend and supplemented that request with an energy allowance for each Alaskan. But the reward for Alaskans in our Permanent Fund frugality has been stolen, a piece at a time, by those legislators who will never support the statutory approach to calculating the dividend.  

The original statute was based upon earnings of the Permanent Fund. Last year, the Alaska Permanent Fund made a profit of $19.2 billion which should result in an increase in your dividend for the next five years. It didn’t and won’t because of the change by legislators who gave us the “Percent of Market Value,” (POMV) value calculation to the fund and its dividend.  

Then they have the audacity to claim we’re overspending if we pay the full dividend. Instead, we got legislative majorities that gave the General Fund a $1.5 billion raise, while reducing the amount of the dividend. Our collective job is to determine who these charlatans are and remove them from office.

When a legislator openly violates the statutes of the state, they should be removed from office. The statute that governs dividends can be amended by a majority of legislators. The dividend statute was not been amended since that would establish a clear and probable cause for removal by voters. What we’re left with is catching legislators in a lie. They advocate for the people’s dividend at the statutory level during their campaigns, then vote our dividend during the legislative session.  

In the last set of elections, we removed nine incumbents of the House and Senate who were caught lying or were philosophically misaligned with the voters’ demand for a full dividend from the people’s fund. That’s half the job.

This year we need to continue to clean House (and Senate) from those who oppose what is best for Alaskans.      

Jim Crawford is the former President of Permanent Fund Defenders, pfdak.com, an Alaska based educational nonprofit corporation.  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 Governor Hammond as a member of the Investment Advisory Committee which formed the investment and corporate strategy of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation in 1975.   

33 COMMENTS

  1. After much effort, we have reached the point where *most* Republican legislators are willing to say they support a full statutory dividend. Getting them to consistently vote that way is the next step.

    In other words, it’s fine to say you support the dividend when it doesn’t matter. That’s step number one.

    But it’s not enough just to vote for a full dividend when the chance of it passing into law is little to none. That’s not functionally any better than step number one.

    Where do Republicans line up during the appropriations process when the dividend has actually been competing with other budget priorities and it does matter? Unfortunately, it was Republicans who voted for many of the spending priorities you reference above, including the billions sent to education not just for the next year, but also the year after. This year, most Republicans in the House Minority joined Democrats in voting for that. Education spending is important. But it should not be funded before the dividend.

    Democrats have adopted a strategy of funding everything…and then seeing what’s left over for the dividend. Republicans must say a resolute NO to that approach.

    The law is the law. The dividend amount shouldn’t be in the budget in the first place. If it is referenced in the budget, it should simply be the same boiler-plate language that has been in the budget for more than three decades. Legislators shouldn’t know the amount of the dividend until October like the rest of us.

    That’s what it means to let the dividend be calculated by statute.

    But in today’s climate that means being willing to say NO to spending requests. And Republicans are historically very poor at that, and this past year was no exception.

    Until Republicans are willing to say NO to the spending (or at least NO until the full PFD is paid), the dividend will continue to be something that every legislator “cares about”…but most don’t actually defend.

    • Mr Eastman, you had your chance with the concurrence vote, and you stabbed us in the back. Go away, you hypocrite!

      • Natural Alaskan, oh please, if you are hanging your opinion on the budget concurrence vote you are thinking in two dimensions in a three-dimensional world. Most Alaskans intuitively know that the way back to a Full Statutory PFD is by reducing the size, scope and footprint of government. That budget was anything but.

        Few legislators have the attention to detail like Eastman to dig into the detail and unwind this mess we are in like his bill to repeal SB26, where was everyone else? One of the main issues regarding the PFD was that many purported “conservative” legislators rallied around the Governor’s POMV 50/50 proposals, which is a CUT from the Full Statutory PFD. POMV 50/50 came out of the Working Group last summer and the Governor put out his budget with POMV 50/50. POMV 50/50 EMBRACES SB26 which is one of the main OBSTRUCTIONS to the Full Statutory PFD. SB26 (which calculates the POMV draw) must be repealed to unwind the legislative obstructions and get back where we need to be. This is why no one would co-sponsor Representative Eastman’s repeated bills (other than Kurka) to repeal SB26 which he even submitted during the special sessions. If any of the other legislators got behind it, they would be distancing themselves from the Governor’s proposals.

        Getting the budget amendment across in the Senate to pay the Full Statutory PFD became an opportunity for all these obstructionists to make a showing of getting behind a Full Statutory PFD despite the blackmail of getting behind a crappy large budget containing constitutional issues such as avoiding the sweep under Art 9, Sec 17(d) to repay the debt owed to the Constitutional Budget Reserve. No conservative who takes their oath seriously should have gotten near that budget.

        • Conservative/Truth Matters said “No conservative who takes their oath seriously should have gotten near that budget.” You mean the budget Representative Eastman voted for.

          We agree, Representative Eastman is no conservative and certainly does not take his oath seriously. He is well known for saying one thing and voting for the exact opposite.

          • Steve-O You say… “You mean the budget Representative Eastman voted for” – In fact Eastman did not vote for the budget.

          • Conservative/Truth Matters,

            Look up HB 281, Eastman did in fact voted for the budget. Please stop believing the lies that are being told to you and start finding the truth for yourself.

            ‘https://mustreadalaska.com/permanent-fund-dividend-whittled-down-by-bill-walker-allies-in-house-but-is-still-largest-in-history-at-3200/#comment-190066

          • Nope, He did NOT vote for HB281. Maybe you need to go look it up, geez. The funny thing is that you are spouting off thinking he did. Now it looks like you are simply telling these lies purposefully as a troll.

          • Eastman and Kurka both voted for HB 281. To claim otherwise is completely false. The article linked above has photographic proof, here’s the roll call that shows it as well
            ‘https://legiscan.com/AK/rollcall/HB281/id/1209186

            The truth is hard for some people to accept, especially when their trusted representatives have been lying to them.

          • Nope you are still wrong… Copied the House Journal for teh final HB281 vote into a comment thread below but here again are the nays on HB281.
            Nays: Eastman, Johnson, Kurka, McCabe, Rauscher, Tilton, Vance

            Johnson changed from “YEA” to “NAY”

            And so, the House adopted CCS HB 281.

    • Representative Eastman,

      Would you care to explain why you voted against reconciliation and providing all Alaskans a full PFD and then you voted for more government spending and cutting the PFD to all Alaskans? Would you care to explain why you continually and repeatedly vote against conservative values and for leftist and big government causes? Would you care to explain why you are trying to convince conservatives that their vote is meaningless?

      It’s very sad that a representative would deliberately misrepresent the facts repeatedly. Representative Eastman, you should be ashamed of yourself.

      • Steve-O – The one who should be ashamed is you with your brand of spin. You say… “you voted for more government spending” when in fact Eastman voted against the budget, yet actually got an amendment across the finish line to cut the budget by over 120 million in refundable oil & gas tax credits down to the statutory minimum. This, while others were introducing add-on after add-on.

        • HB 281 which is the budget bill, grew government spending and lowered the amount of the PFD after the concurrence vote failed due to Eastman and Kurka.

          ‘https://mustreadalaska.com/what-happens-next-with-budget-dividend/

          Eastman and Kurka voted against a full PFD when there votes could have ensured it. Eastman and Kurka both voted for more government spending and a reduced PFD when they voted for HB 281.

          If truth matters for you, you should know the truth.

          • Steve-O, you missed the mark entirely, now you are lying. While you may be entitled to your own opinion you are not entitled to your own facts, which you seem to make up randomly, to deliberately misrepresent in order to grind your ax with miss-truth. Furthermore, you seem to think Eastman voted for HB281, he did not. You say… “vote failed due to Eastman and Kurka” yet it would have taken 3 votes, not 2, to push it over. The concurrence vote failed 22/18, it would have taken 21. They voted against more government spending by consistently voting against HB281. Anything other than these facts is simply speculation on your part. You may need to take a closer look at your source of talking points.

          • In what alternate world where voting against the full PFD (concurrence vote) and then voting to fund higher levels of state government spending and reducing the PFD is that not voting for HB 281?

            Eastman and Kurka both voted for HB 281. To claim otherwise is completely false. The article linked above has photograph proof, here’s the roll call that shows it as well
            ‘https://legiscan.com/AK/rollcall/HB281/id/1209186

          • Your wrong. Here is the final vote for the HB281, the budget bill which Eastman voted against from the House Journal…
            Representative Tuck moved and asked unanimous consent that the
            House adopt the Conference Committee with limited powers of free

            2022-05-18 House Journal Page 3130
            conference report, thus adopting the following, and recommended that
            the members vote yes:

            CONFERENCE CS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 281
            “An Act making appropriations for the operating and loan
            program expenses of state government and for certain programs;
            capitalizing funds; amending appropriations; making capital
            appropriations, supplemental appropriations, and reappropriations;
            making appropriations under art. IX, sec. 17(c), Constitution of
            the State of Alaska, from the constitutional budget reserve fund;
            and providing for an effective date.”

            (technical title change)

            The question being: “Shall the House adopt the report?” The roll was
            taken with the following result:

            CCS HB 281
            Adopt

            YEAS: 33 NAYS: 7 EXCUSED: 0 ABSENT: 0

            Yeas: Carpenter, Claman, Cronk, Drummond, Edgmon, Fields,
            Foster, Gillham, Hannan, Hopkins, Josephson, Kaufman,
            Kreiss-Tomkins, LeBon, McCarty, McKay, Merrick, Nelson, Ortiz,
            Patkotak, Prax, Rasmussen, Schrage, Shaw, Snyder, Spohnholz, Story,
            Stutes, Tarr, Thompson, Tuck, Wool, Zulkosky

            Nays: Eastman, Johnson, Kurka, McCabe, Rauscher, Tilton, Vance

            Johnson changed from “YEA” to “NAY”

            And so, the House adopted CCS HB 281.

          • Furthermore that vote you show from LegiScan link above is not the budget vote. It is the CBR component of the budget bill to INCREASE the dividend by $650, what they called a “Energy Relief check”. Alaskans are getting only half, this would have been the other half. Serves you right for not going to SOA BASIS with your research. Your source says it passed, but because it requires a ¾ vote to access the CBR it FAILED 29/11 when it needed 30. All the Republicans voted to increase the PFD by the $650 in this vote including Eastman. Your source was wrong, you were wrong, the fact that you spew vitriol based on false information tells much about your mission.

          • I see your mistake, besides trusting a Representative who is known for misleading people, the vote on HB 281 that you are referring to is whether to adopt the budget. Adopting a budget and funding a budget are two different things, my guess is that your trusted Representative is telling you that he voted against the budget when what he means is he voted against adopting the budget. You see, after Representative Eastman voted against adopting the budget he vote FOR FUNDING the budget. He’s playing a game of schematics and using you to push his false narrative. If a budget isn’t funded it’s not a budget. The vote to fund the budget, that I previously linked to from numerous sources, is the vote that Representative Eastman made that matters.

            If your significant other says they want to buy a brand new $50,000 vehicle and you say that you don’t approve of that, but then you sign a check for a $50,000 vehicle…you approved the funding of that budget.

            Representative Eastman and Representative Kurka both voted for HB 281, they voted to fund a larger budget after they voted against a full PFD.

          • Nope, I don’t have to trust anyone to look at the record. Your clutching at straws and digging yourself deeper with your intellectual dishonesty and ignorance. It is not my problem that you are simply wrong, your just blogging and thrashing against someone who actually knows what happened. Your source that you link above, LegiScan, is what you show as proof that he voted for the “budget” that “passed” yet that very specific limited vote was for the sole purpose of ONLY funding the Energy Relief portion of the PFD that was going to be paid out of the CBR. To vote against it was to lower the amount of the PFD paid out by $650. It FAILED because it did not receive the required ¾ vote (30) under the Constitution, something your out-of-state source apparently does not have a clue about for that vote. In fact, had that vote achieved the ¾ threshold, your PFD check (if you are even an Alaskan, Steve O) would be $650 higher. All the Republicans voted for it, yet that was NOT the budget vote, nor was it the vote to fund the budget, despite you saying that it was. Like I said before you are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

          • Conservative/Truth Matters,
            I’m never too proud to admit when I’m wrong, the state website isn’t useful for the average person so I apologize for not using your preferred link…perhaps in the future you can provide that information instead of assuming that we are all state legislators and in the know like yourself. According to the information you’ve provided and doing some more leg work to fill in the holes I now fully acknowledge that Eastman didn’t approve the budget but the fact remains he vote against the full PFD.

            Since you feel free guessing where I am from, my motives, who I represent, and who I am, I will feel free to do the same with you by revising my previous question that you have yet to answer.

            Representative Eastman/Conservative/Truth Matters,

            Would you care to explain why you voted against reconciliation and providing all Alaskans a full PFD and cutting the PFD to all Alaskans? Would you care to explain why you continually and repeatedly vote against conservative values and for leftist and big government causes? Would you care to explain why you are trying to convince conservatives that their vote is meaningless?

            It’s very sad that a representative would deliberately misrepresent the facts repeatedly. Representative Eastman, you should be ashamed of yourself.

    • I live in district 20. Eastman lied about supporting a full PFD Check to all Alaskan’s. I will never vote for him again. Eastmans final vote cost every Alaskan about $2000, no matter how he spins/lies about it. I WILL be voting for STEWART GRAHAM who is running against liar Eastman in District 20. Stewart Graham will keep his word about voting for a full PFD Check.

  2. If we are going to give 1/2 of our money to the state illegally then we should demand that all Alaskans pay no fees for any state programs no camping fee driver lic fee car registration fee and so on. We should not have to pay twice for state fees.We as Alaskans should demand the state act and stop charging us fees to live here.

  3. Jim,

    Your piece is not balanced. Your omission is in how to best grow the Permanent Fund. Here’s two things to consider:

    1. Oil and gas belong to Alaskans. We are constitutionally obligated to sell it for the highest possible price- something Jay Hammond repeated more than once. Selling our oil for the best price allows us to make massive deposits to the corpus of the fund. Dunleavy, in that regard, is a total failure. Our current take on oil is far below historical norms, and is among the worst in the world. At current prices over $20 billion dollars of oil is taken from Alaskans per year. But due to SB-21 Alaskans are, literally, losing billions. Dunleavy has provided zero leadership and has refused to stand tall for Alaskans.

    2. We can grow the corpus of the fund tax free. We should be thinking strategically about how to best grow the corpus. We can pay out large dividends, where a significant portion of the dividend goes to the IRS for many families, or we can restrain dividends in order to grow the fund for larger dividends for our kids, and grandkids.

    Due to the horrible, and corrupt policies of Biden-and the damage that has done to our economy- the Permanent Funs has lost $4 billion over the last six months. The corpus of the fund is now down to approximately $76 billion.

    Its clear we need to replace Dunleavy if we want to maximize dividends and maximize the growth of the corpus of the fund. Wally Hickel and Jay Hammond were far better governors for Alaska.

    • Not socialism to recieve your share of the inheritance ( Alaska resources are owned by the people of Alaska, NOT by the government per the state of Alaska constitution.). The state government is simply than manager and the oil companies are the extractor or contractor working for us!!always

  4. Sure will be nice when you clean house in the Senate and remove Bert Stedman……the one that pilfers the PFD and makes a joke of every voter and request of the voters.

  5. For FY 2022 the PF fytd return is 2.07% (reported as of May 31, 2022. The Legislature plans on spending 5%/year on Dividends and regular government spending. We are now officially in a Recession and Biden and the Green New Deal psychopaths will continue their assault on the U.S. economy. – you can see where this might be heading.
    A significant portion of the Dividend is handed over to the IRS – it is a stupid Socialist program ballyhooed by so-called “conservatives” (they are not conservative). Jim Crawford (or his company) went bankrupt I believe. Please correct the record if I am wrong.

  6. Yes, our PFD does help the private sector, that was not the reasoning behind its creation. It was created to give the people a share of the state resource’s income INSTEAD OF, the people developing the resources themselves. I.e. putting oil well(s) in every yard in our state creating an eyesore(s) throughout our beautiful state. The PFD was in lieu of mineral rights, period.

  7. Jim,

    It would have been helpful if you were to have listed the names of those, like Representative Eastman, who say one thing and vote the opposite. Telling us we shouldn’t vote for these people but not telling us who they are doesn’t inform the average person.

    • Here’s a few Republican lying sellouts—Kelly Merrick, Louise States Stedman,,Wool. I the House. Burka in the Senate. Check Josh Revak. For starters.

  8. Good commentary, Jim, you hit two nails right on the heads.
    .
    One, who to vote for… Dark money, corrupted voter rolls, ballot harvesting, proprietary Dominion vote-tabulating gear, and ranked choice voting together give the sense Alaska’s electoral system is all but irrelevant.
    .
    Two, who will protect our Permanent Fund dividends… What’s a well-meaning legislator to do when outnumbered 7 to 1 by registered special interests, God only knows how many to 1 by special interests we’re not allowed to know about, like dark money donors, and, last but not least, by his Democrat colleagues whose ideology is all about destroying the lives, livelihoods, and independence of Alaska’s middle-class, productive citizens.
    .
    Not saying the two challenges are insurmountable, Jim… looking for suggestions on how to fix and finish them.

  9. Jim s belief to grow the Permanent Fund with TAXABLE dividends is like Starving the Puppies so the Mother Dog can make more milk. The Biden losses this year will be recovered by Trump’s Make American Great Again GAINS.. And will not be noticed in our 5 year averaged dividend check. This will only happened if we vote Trump, Sarah, and Kelly. We have to do our part so they can do theirs. It is also just as important to vote OUT Eastman, Merrick,
    ,Stutes , Stedman,. Wool, Kurka and all the Democrats they vote with. I live in Eastmans district 20 and will be voting for Stewart Graham who pledged to vote for a full PFD. I believe him. EAstman lied to me.

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