By ANCHORAGE DAILY PLANET
With state government on track to shut down July 1 at the beginning of the new fiscal year if no operating and capital budgets are approved, the looming battles over the Permanent Fund dividend take on a life of their own.
There will be fireworks in the coming days and weeks over the dividend’s amount, how it is figured and whether it should be protected by the state constitution.
Much of the angst over the dividend springs from actions by former Gov. Bill Walker in 2016 and the Legislature in the two following years that cut the annual payout by about half. What they did was bad enough; how they did it, even worse. They ignored the traditional method of calculating the dividend that is set in law, and made the amount paid to Alaskans subject to political whim, endangering the payouts in the future.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy says he wants a dividend figured by the traditional method included in the operating budget for the next fiscal year. That would amount to about $3,000 for each and every Alaskan. He has offered a constitutional amendment that, if approved, would protect the traditional calculation from lawmakers shaking the bushes in the future for quick cash.