Legislative update: A tax is on the table, and a new 'dividend fund' plan is heard, conference committee stagnates - Must Read Alaska
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Tuesday, June 22, 2021
HomeTop NewsLegislative update: A tax is on the table, and a new ‘dividend fund’ plan is heard, conference committee stagnates

Legislative update: A tax is on the table, and a new ‘dividend fund’ plan is heard, conference committee stagnates

House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday heard alternative plans to the governor’s proposal to put the Permanent Fund dividend matter before voters.

Sen. Natasha von Imhof presented her plan, which is a competing concept to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s, and would take $6.7 billion from the Alaska Permanent Fund, create a new fund, and pay dividends to the public that would start at about $500. According to her analysis, it would not require a broad-based tax.

When she got pushback on the fact that the smaller dividend is, in fact a tax on the people, she explained that it’s not a tax, it’s just “less free money.”

The dividend from the new fund would be up to 5 percent of the new fund’s market value, the same as used through the SB 26 formula to establish the maximum allowable draw from the Permanent Fund. It would operate as a mini-fund dedicated to dividends only, leaving the corpus of the Permanent Fund untouched and the spendable portion of the Permanent Fund just for government.

Von Imhof sits on Senate Finance, which has so far ignored Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s plan to essentially return to the 50-50 dividend calculation from the available portion of the Permanent Fund, which is a statute that has been ignored since 2016, by putting the formula in the Alaska Constitution; this would require a vote of the people. His plan, Senate Joint Resolution 6, was part of his call for the special session. Critics say it would also require a tax and they want him to propose a full fiscal plan to make the numbers work.

House Judiciary also heard Rep. Adam Wool’s proposal for a 2.5% income tax and a dividend of about $1,000. That plan, along with von Imhof’s, appears to have little broad-based support in the Legislature.

Meanwhile, the first Senate Finance hearing on the governor’s plan, SJR 6, is scheduled for Friday at 1:30 pm.

Read: Way-back machine: What voters advised lawmakers to do in 1999 when asked about using the Permanent Fund for government

Special session ends on June 18 and with one week to go, there is no operating budget, no capital budget, no mental health budget, and no Permanent Fund dividend. “Pink slips” indicating a possible government shutdown, would go out one week from today, on June 17.

House Bill 69, the operating budget, had $4.43 billion in state unrestricted funds when it was passed by the Senate for Fiscal Year 2022. The capital budget has $274.6 million, leveraging $1.9 billion in federal funds for roads, bridges, and other infrastructure.

The Permanent Fund’s Earning Reserve Account — the fund’s spendable portion — has more than $11 billion that is unencumbered, and the Legislature could transfer some of that into the constitutionally protected corpus of the Fund, to put it off-limits for spending, thus allowing the fund to grow faster. SB 26 limits the amount that can be used from the earnings reserve fund for government and the dividend.

The Legislature faces a challenge with the public because the Permanent Fund corpus balance is nearly $82 billion, just $18 billion short of what many legislators have said would be needed to never have to talk about broad-based taxes again.

To further the public perception challenge, at the beginning of the year, when the Permanent Fund was at $73 billion, the corporation’s own forecast said it would not reach $80 billion until 2030. Yet six months later it has blown past $80 billion.

Sources say that while the committee hearings have lightly dotted the special session calendar, the full House and full Senate are expected to meet on Monday, but conference committee work is the hold-up.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • The state own subsurface mineral, gas, and water rights, the individual is compensated via the dividend

  • So the magnanimous legislators are considering letting the people have a few pence from the peoples’ money while they continue grandiose spending. And they promise, absolutely cross their hearts, that if only the fund hits $100 billion they will never need to take more money. Promise. Horsepucky. They’ll laugh and slap each other on the back as they figure ways to waste more money buying votes to cement themselves in power. CUT! CUT! CUT! No to more tax collectors (another bureaucracy with even more state employees). No to frittering away more money. When times are hard families make hard decisions, and that’s what we also hire our legislator to do.
    Ronald Reagan:
    Government always finds a need for whatever money it gets.
    Government is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no sense of responsibility at the other.

  • Of all the competing plans now out there (I’ve lost count), especially the plans that might actually move forward, von Imhof’s makes the most sense. No one can seriously consider a state income tax coupled with a PFD; pure income redistribution, as tried in the USSR, Cuba, Venezuela, etc. and with a huge IRS hit besides. An income tax hits hardest the one place where we are weakest; Alaskans producing something to sell so we can keep buying CA strawberries, AZ SUVs, WA gasoline, OR milk, and Chinese crap. If Dunleavy’s gambling taxes really did amount to something then Natasha’s plan in no way precludes or reduces that. We could one day still have a state sales tax if we continue to allow the education lobby and Medicaid to eat more and more. Natasha keeps the PFD alive, and if copper, graphite, rare earths and the like one day bring another boom then the PFD amount could be increased. Dunleavy should support this because his plan has opposition from across the landscape.

  • Von Imhof and her special interest friends are NOT conservatives, they are thieves. Portraying the PFD as “free money” is exemplary of her lack of grasp of why the PFD was created in the first place. The idea that the individuals in Alaska are important to the growth and success of our state is what was behind the PFD and was created to PREVENT self interested criminals that are elevated to political office from stealing all the wealth that comes from our state and our individual efforts. The “government” has become the oppressor of the individual, sucking up every spare dime in order to grow this unwieldy oligarchy to further the stranglehold on the individual. It is time to flush the commode of the crap that has become our “representation” in Juneau.

    • You make this up as you write Robert? Heheh!

  • NVI is nothing but a priviledged high class THIEF!!!
    Follow the Statute and give the people of Alaska the $$ they are due.
    It’s not free money.

  • They will not stop, ever, until they eliminate the PFD and have full access to the corpus.

    These people, Democrats and Republicans, give less than a damn about the people the allegedly serve.

  • She thinks that’s fair? Does she understand the meaning of the PFD? Someone needs to be educated.

    Leave it alone and never touch it. Payout like it supposed to be.

    Pay back what you stole from Alaskans.

  • Do we need the legislature to propose a vote on the governor’s proposal? Perhaps we start a petition by the people to get the governors proposal put in the constitution. We should further insulate the fund from those who wish to spend it on more funding of the state government.

  • Our State Bureaucracy has become the Oversized, Overfeed, Out of Touch, and Entitled Elephant in the Room, that demands All the Food on the Table, and how dare Any of Alaska’s Residents think they’re entitled to a slice of the pie that belongs to them! This Oversized Bureaucracy has developed a Neo-Fuedal Mind Set that believes all resources belong to the Government Aristocracy/Bureacracy and in the words of Marie Antoinette:
    “Let the people eat cake”!

  • Sen. Natasha von Imhof, it’s not “less free money”
    It’s money paid to the residents of Alaska to pay us out Mineral Rights!

    Pay us our 50%!
    Stop cheating us!

  • It’s not free money……it’s our rightful share! How out of touch are these people?

  • Ok
    Von Imhof
    Create a new fund? What’s wrong with the old fund? Just do the right thing. It’s the law. It’s our PFD.
    So it’s free money. What we only get $500 dollars of free money, not the whole amount due to us.
    I can definitely make my own decisions on my owed full amount PFD.
    Plus a tax now. If I get my full amount, then maybe I can save for this, not needed Tax.

  • The Permanent Fund Dividend is Not Free money, it’s never been “free.” Your snap food stamps, housing vouchers, medical equipment to the low income disabled, Medicaid is “Free” money for qualifying Alaskans.
    The dividend was always about State of Alaska recieving a limit how much it can spend, so it doesnt over spend. The dividend gives the people some control. Your free public assistance services don’t do that -giving people control over government- It’s the other way around! Natasha hasn’t been living in Alaska long enough or she hangs with a narrow minded crowd or both.

  • They have their meetings and they listen to the citizens(but they don’t hear us), they invite commissioners and auditors and people in the know and they ignore all of it and have their “At Eases” and then tell us they can do what they want and to hell with what we think we deserve.
    And we can do nothing about it. Until the next election.

  • $82 billion? Their dark money sponsors are chomping at the bit…………………

  • See what happens when a judge disregards the statutory law? We’ve had nothing but chaos since. Judges supporting anarchy is not a good thing. It encourages thieves like von Imhof and Stedman.

  • I sympathize with those who would toss aside von Imhof’s plan in favor of a much larger PFD but no legislator today with any traction favors reducing spending! The entire Senate Finance Committee wants more spending, and they’re the conservatives. Bishop speaks in favor of more spending at almost every hearing. Hoffman talks about billions of dollars of needs for rural Alaska. etc. etc. My guess is that von Imhof would support reducing spending enough to pay a statutory PFD, taking maybe $800 million out of education and Medicaid, but no one else on Finance would. As things stand today eliminating the PFD is just a waypoint on the way to education and Medicaid consuming the entire ERA and then the corpus; so von Imhof’s plan is by far the best that can happen. On the House side, the House Minority was silenced by the two defections, and only Johnson and Carpenter are conservatives now on Finance. Carpenter apparently doesn’t have the time to learn about state budgeting and accounting mechanics, and his questions and comments reveal that, leaving Johnson by herself. LeBon is some sort of banker’s socialist who votes to increase spending. If the PFD is going to come from a draw on PF earnings rather than from an income tax or from reducing the corpus then an honest reduction in spending has to occur, and while a majority of Alaskans favor that it’s opposed by most legislators and one hundred percent of lobbyists. No one pays a lobbyist to work on spending less of course. Because of Ballot Measure 2 we may be in even worse shape after the election next year. Of the ideas that have a chance Von Imhof is the best bet by far.

  • Thanks Senator von Imhof for being one of the few legislators that understands the peril of the Governor’s plan. However, setting aside a “Dividend Fund” seems like a dedicated purpose and thus a violation of the State Constitution.
    There really is there is no need at all to change the State Constitution. That assumes we have Legislators, as a body, that do the right thing. All we have to do is pay our obligations first and use the leftover surplus funds to pay a dividend. No one deserves a Dividend when the State is borrowing money and short-funding our constitutionally required services. Let me say right here that the meme of “compensation for lost mineral rights” is completely false and can easily be disproven. One must accept that Article 1, Paragraph 1 unequivocally states:
    “This constitution is dedicated to the principles that all persons have a natural right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the enjoyment of the rewards of their own industry; that all persons are equal and entitled to equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law; and that all persons have corresponding obligations to the people and to the State.”
    So sure, you are entitled to your share of the income just as you have corresponding obligations to pay your share of the bills.
    Thanks to the stock market surge, we are not that far off from balancing our budget using the sustainable resource of the Permanent Fund. The worst thing we could do right now is to over-draw from the Permanent Fund earnings. And in my view, any income or sales tax imposed to support paying a larger Dividend is patently unconstitutional. So its pretty simple: Balance the Budget, Meet our Obligations, and pay the Dividend with the leftovers. Cut the budget if you can. The internet age will afford us many opportunities to reduce the size and necessity of certain government programs.
    If we don’t – it may become necessary for a broad-based tax. I am optimistic that if we just make some smart choices now a tax will never be necessary.
    A state with low taxes on individuals and businesses is a blessing in itself.
    Cheers

  • There has been Zero talk of cutting down the size of State Government.
    Also, I find it funny that von Imhof would even consider throwing something out there that doesn’t pay Alaskans very much when she barely got re-elected.

  • So out of the $81 billion in the pfd fund the Queen Natasha von Imhof is kind enough to give Alaskans their share of $6.7 million to divvy up amongst ourselves and that’s it, the rest goes to their special interest friends? Well why don’t we flip that around and they could share the $6.7 billion amongst their cronies and give the people the remaining balance. Yes it’s not much but it’s just “less free money” for her friends.

  • It took the House two-thirds of the regular session just to determine who was who, and now we’re nearing the end of the first special session, and they STILL haven’t accomplished a bloody thing. There a whole bunch of them who need to be sent home forever.

  • Restore the dividend to the original formula amount every year. And…

    Cut
    The
    Budget
    You
    Cowards!!!

  • Paula Zimmerman, they have their fixed constituencies paid off so it is often a big hurdle to cross to move entrenched legislators out of office.

  • Do the math…
    .
    Alaska’s Lobbyist Directory shows 421 line items of special interests who bought or leased Alaska’s legislators.
    .
    One can add up what they pay for their legislators. Serious money…
    .
    Nowhere does one find a line item representing the interests of productive Alaskans who simply want what they’re owed in lieu of mineral rights.
    .
    Care to bet on who’s gonna win, place, and show?
    .
    But here we are arguing among ourselves over financial technicalities while our lobbyist-legislator team steals us blind, shoves us closer to economic collapse, all the while planning their retirements somewhere, anywhere out of state beyond the reach of those whose lives and economy they ruined.
    .
    We’ll let that happen, let von Imhof get away with it?

  • Don’t tax me, I didn’t ask for it. Don’t increase govt we don’t need more bloated programs. Pay the full PFD. Cut the pork and balance the budget. Oh wait! I forget you legislators always fail to hear us peasants after we voted you in.

  • It’s actually pretty simple…pay out the statutory PFD and cut the state budget back to essential government services. Fire a whole bunch of state employees. Cut state employee pay and benefits. End state funded welfare and social services (aka socialism) because making sure you and your children live a better life than you’ve earned ISN’T a legitimate function of government. Our state government has squandered vast amounts of money and they intend to continue until they run the state completely out of money at which time all the welfare recipients, state employees, and others feeding at the public trough will vote in an income tax. Vote these idiots out of office.

  • If they want to talk about abolishing the PFD then just go ahead and do it but not before paying out what was promised first. If you paid out the full amount to every Alaskan with no strings attached, that’s over $100k per person.

    Using Nancy Pelosi’s logic on how Food Stamps have a “multiplier effect” that benefits the economy, injecting a payload into the Alaskan Economy would do wonders. No reason for an income tax, many people would be able to pay off their mortgages, student loans, car loans, and credit card debts.

    This hole is because politicians don’t want the pot of gold to deplete. Why is it so wrong for the American taxpayer to spend his/her own money as fit but the government is perfectly allowed to find some shiny new toy to splurge on?

  • Excellent post!

  • Guess I was giving them the benefit of a doubt. Not too smart on my thinking huh?

  • Same incompetent legislators. Cut the budget before anything. If you don’t have the backbone, go home and go back to work at McDonald’s. No to taxes, no to pissing away the PFD, which you have done. Also no more per-diem after the regular session, you all set your time limit.

  • Before any new tax, the following needs to be demonstrated but those elected to office.

    1- Fisical Responsible n demonstrated for at least three consecutive years.

    2- Maintaining a Budget and demonstrate the ability to do so. for three consecutive years

    3- End Wasteful spending

    4-Sales Tax before Income Tax. Is time those visiting Our State pay their share.

    5- Approve and voted by the registered voters of Alaska and not the legislators

  • Von Imhof’s trust fund is free money

  • Now that the PFD payoff, by what it should rightfully be to the people, is a high amount, this is when some government thief decides to make a mini account for we the people who ultimately own all the mineral rights of our state.
    What then, when the mini account gets too big, they’ll figure on making another mini account because it got too big too, and so they’ll want its funds too, when it grows big.
    Nothing but a bunch of thieves who want to declare it free money, and take all our so called free money for their pet projects, and pensions.
    The elected Alaska government has it backwards, and is purposely presenting it backwards. In reality, Every single penny that is collected is the people’s of Alaska money. Then the people of Alaska allow 50% to go for government running, and the remainder is to be paid out to the people of Alaska. That is how it actually goes.

    This is why none of us have mineral rights to our own properties, the people of Alaska own them. Period. If you want to go back on mineral ownership then give us our payout and our mineral rights back to our private properties…. Period.

    Why do you think they core sample before they sell off any state land, and let you know, if later something is found the state owns those minerals. They word it wrongly but the people of Alaska own those minerals.

  • Cut spending. Eliminate the PFD. Be happy.

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