Old money: Dunleavy says Legislature knowingly underfunded senior benefits


Gov. Michael Dunleavy on Saturday said the Democrat-led House Majority is playing fast and loose with Alaskans concerning the shortfall in funds for the Senior Benefits program.

They underfunded the program last year, he said, even though they were warned about it running out of money.

Last week, the Department of Health and Social Services announced that for May and April, those seniors in the highest income bracket of the program — with an income of $26,355 — would not receive their expected $76 per month senior benefit check from the State. Senior Benefits is a program that was created in 2007 to help low- to moderate-income seniors make ends meet.

“Members of the House Majority are quite frankly, being disingenuous with Alaskans when they express shock and disappointment that the Senior Benefits program will not have enough revenue for its highest income seniors for two months, said Dunleavy. “Why? Because they knowingly underfunded it.”

The $152 they will not be receiving for the two months equals about one half percent of their total yearly income.

Those same seniors, however, have lost more than $1,000 a year for the past three years in income from the diminished Permanent Fund dividend, which was reduced by half under the era of Gov. Walker.

Additionally, the House budget this year takes another $1,659 from Alaskans’ Permanent Fund dividends for 2019, which totals 6.29 percent of that senior citizen’s income of $26,355.

Dunleavy said that the Walker Administration warned lawmakers that the program was probably going to run out of funds before the end of 2019, but the Legislature passed the appropriation anyway.

Some 4,731 Alaskans over the age of 65 receive the $76 per month. Last year, the Democrat-led House Majority legislation, HB 236, reauthorized the Senior Benefits program but required DHSS to reduce or stop payments to the highest income tier if funding came up short. The Department could, according to the bill, rob another program for the funds, at its discretion.

Dunleavy said the DHSS is looking for what other funds might be available to come up with the $800,000 required to pay those Alaskans.

A letter signed by Speaker Bryce Edgmon, House Majority Leader Steve Thompson, and 17 other members of the Democrat-led Majority, was sent to Commissioner Adam Crum on Friday urged the commissioner to come up with the money. Republicans Thompson, Gary Knopp, and Gabrielle LeDoux signed the letter.

[Read the letter here]

Rep. Ben Carpenter, a Republican, said it was ironic that Democrats were upset about the $76 being taken from lower-income seniors, when they show little concern for the past three years when  $3,678 has been taken from those same seniors — and every other Alaskan — by shortchanging them on their Permanent Fund dividends.

The Senior Benefits program is managed by the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services and distributes a check each month to lower-income seniors.

There are about 4,731 individuals receiving $76 per month who will not receive a benefit the final two months of the fiscal year ending June 2019. The lowest income individuals eligible for higher payments of $175 and $250 a month will continue to receive monthly benefits.

A similar situation occurred in March 2016 when Senior Benefits payments went from $125 to $47 a month for the highest income tier.

“The House Majority needs to be honest with regard to the actions they took last year. They are fully aware that they chose to underfund Senior Benefits in their own budget last year under the previous Administration,” Dunleavy said.

Dunleavy’s proposed budget for 2020 would cut the program altogether. The House of Representatives’ version of the 2020 budget retains funding for it. That budget is now under review by the Senate.


  1. What theory of rights justifies taking public money (at a time where our Democrat majority want to raid the PFD and/or institute a personal income tax) and paying it out to people simply because those people failed to provide for themselves?

    We have a natural right to our life, our liberty and our property. Those are negative rights.

    Negative rights are rights that are satisfied when other people refrain from doing something. For example, if someone refrains from stealing your property (or money) they are respecting your natural property rights.

    To satisfy a positive right someone else must do something for you.

    If you have a positive right to be given money every month, say under this program, then someone else must provide the cash. If that cash comes from a personal income tax then your natural property rights are directly violated. If it comes from other public money (PFD, oil revenues, etc.) then your natural property rights in regard to your common ownership of public funds are violated.

    So…if you have natural property rights, both to your own private property and to your common interest in public property, then under what constitutional theory of rights does the government gain the authority to either hand out public money or, when they run short of that, to tax you and then hand out that money?

    Dunleavy wants to end this program. He should and everyone who understands and supports the Constitution should support him in doing so.

      • Actually it’s not a theory that I can take credit for…it predates me by at least several centuries.

        Public schools are an interesting case though.

        If parents were required to internalize the full cost of educating their children (children they willingly brought into the world) instead of forcing all the rest of us to subsidize them they’d probably insist on getting better value for their educational investment.

        Likely the children would be spending their time getting educated (math, science, economics, computer science, etc) rather than being entertained (sports and other such things) and our society would benefit from lower overall expenditures and better educated young adults.

        For some reason people believe that their personal decision to have children imposes a responsibility onto the rest of us to help pay for them. Weird, right?

        • Boy PJ, you have an interesting view on society. Public education is something that society believes in and without it huge numbers of citizens would go without. Always a question of how to pay for what society believes in and, so far, the vote is to tax you and your ilk to help pay for this education. Go ahead and whine all you want but that’s the way it is.
          I agree that it takes no responsibility on the part of parents, to have children, but to choose to leave these children uneducated is a greater lack of responsibility that would end up costing society much more $ in incarceration costs IMO.

          • Reading comprehension is one of the skills that a good education brings, Bill.
            My post said nothing about leaving children uneducated.
            The question is who is actually responsible for paying for it.
            When public money pays for it we get a tragedy of the commons problem.
            The parents get 100% of the benefit of public education but only pay a fraction of the cost.
            Parents don’t pay the direct cost of educating their children so they don’t demand accountability for the dollars spent on education.
            That’s why we see overbuilt schools, a heavy emphasis on playing games and entertaining the kids rather than teaching them STEM and such.
            Mandatory education is essential but the people imposing the burden of educating children (the parents) should pay the full cost.
            And the tired “what society believes in” argument should never be used again…it wasn’t that long ago that society believed in things like segregation and before that slavery. Or would you have supported a majority vote back then too???

          • Public education started in the late 1700’s due to parents not being able to afford education. In order to make our country better, its was decided (I believe Thomas Jefferson) to start this endeavor. Private schools are expensive now, accommodating only to those that can afford such luxuries. Is our education system a joke? Yes, but where does the fault lay? I would say Congress. There’s several countries that provide excellent public education system, starting from a great foundation within their government to ensure it. We have a class of ridiculous senators and representatives that care too much about lining their pockets, whom send their children to private schools. This country, and government, can afford better public education, we just choose not to.

        • PJ your use of Tragedy of the Commons is out of place here and further it’s not just the parents who benefit from the public education of their children.
          It is society that benefits and it is this society that determines what is taught (including playing games). You don’t like paying for it but “tough noogies.” That’s how it is, reality sucks. If the parents were left to pay for the costs, those who cannot afford it would be left with what?? Society has determined that you and other property owners need to chip in for much of this public education-you don’t have to like it but you do have to pay. Like I said “tough noogies.” Heheh!

  2. This ploy by the dims is standard operating procedure for them. Attack/disenfranchise/intimidate the most vulnerable citizens to achieve their goals. Diminish or completely retard road maintenance, public safety and sane spending policies. An absolute disgrace. At the same time they do this, they attempt to subsidize their own goals (despicable “education” policies, public employee unions, etc.), at the expense of all Alaskans, attempting to force them to do their bidding (hand over their money), or else. The only tactic I can think of that achieves their goals has been by importing “like minds” from outside. True Alaskans would never stand for it. The Homer area is a good example. Remember, they tried to make Homer a “sanctuary city”? Didn’t work out too well for them there. Since then, they’ve upped their game. How about Moose Pass. I read that the Moose Pass school receives $320,000 per year, in state funding, for 16 students. That’s $20,000 per year per student. For many years, those students were bussed to Seward schools. Now, they are in their “own” school at that tremendous expense to Alaskan residents. Governor Dunleavy wants to return to the sane policies of yore, there, and close the unnecessary school in Moose Pass. Dims are going nuts.

    • That’s my question too. I don’t understand what PJ is saying either.
      Did Dunleavy’s proposed budget fully fund it? Hard to believe but maybe.
      I think “senior benefits” is really another Dividend. Its not a “social program” although it does award the benefit in progressive fashion.

    • Jack,

      It is not perforce cutting any necessary program “all the way”. What is needed is for Alaskans to realize that the bloated spending cannot continue without dire consequences for all Alaskans. Governor Dunleavy is not trying to harm Alaska. He is trying to save Alaska from the dim policies that will surely bankrupt Alaska. Period. The dims continue their resistance to sane fiscal policy, in order to fund their socialist agenda.

      • So then why is Dunleavy complaining about reducing the funding for the “senior benefits” program?

        I agree that we should reduce the budget in order for it to balance.

        The first step is to stop fooling ourselves by borrowing more money from the CBR (which has occurred at least the last 4 years). Last year 70% of the Dividend was borrowed from the CBR.

        We can easily balance the budget without borrowing by reducing the Dividend. But I realize that idea doesn’t sit well with those who believe it is some type of entitlement (which it is not).

        • Chris,
          You succinctly make my point.
          The “borrowing” from the CBR occurred during the walker administration(last 4 years). Not only that, the “last three years” is when the PFD was stolen by that same administration. Why is the only solution to inane spending by Alaskan legislatures, to steal the PFD? Nonsense. Cutting unnecessary/frivolous spending is the answer. As far as the “senior benefit” program, the dims always attack the most vulnerable citizens if they don’t get their way. This is not an accident or Governor Dunleavy’s fault. It is SOP for liberals.

  3. It’s not the monetary amount for the liberals. They want to be the hand that hands it out.

    • Yes R.A.W., Democrats depend on people with their hand out to elect them and then they reward the voters with handouts. It is a vicious circle. And, Ben Carpenter is correct with his observation about the Democrats false concern for these seniors not receiving their two months benefits.

      • Randall, you do realize that it’s the Dunleavy supporters who have their hand out this session.
        A classic case in point is the character from Wasilla who is feeding his family on Top Ramen and squirrel because he isn’t getting his full PFD-tell that guy to spend his food stamp money on groceries rather than bullets. Heheh!

        • Bill,
          Obviously, you appear to be in the dark when it comes to Alaskans that need their PFD. That “character” from Wasilla, wanting to feed his family with food he doesn’t have to “hunt and kill” or catch on a hook, is exactly why Alaskans, who are “less than wealthy”, need their rightful PFD. My family was in the same “boat” in the 1950s, in Alaska. The PFD made a tremendous difference in our ‘quality of life’. That doesn’t sound like you care about any issue except your own “reasoning”, or Alaskans in general. I don’t mean to be demeaning your opinion, but that opinion, in my opinion, is the very basis liberals/dims are using, to continue to steal Alaskans’ PFD. BTW, 22 caliber ‘bullets’ cost about ten cents apiece. A cheap Dinner for a family probably costs $20+. Your math is incorrect.

          • Ben, next you’ll be telling us that food stamps for a family of 5 in Wasilla doesn’t cover the costs of food there?? By the way, I’ve heard of lots of folks getting food stamps who sell them for cash (50 cents on the dollar) so it appears there are more than enough food stamps to cover at least some folks.
            Frankly, I don’t believe that anyone living in Wasilla has to resort to eating squirrel unless they’ve done something to loose their food stamps. Further, a lasagna that will feed five easily costs less than $20 at Costco in Juneau.
            Like I said it appears that fellow is spending too much on bullets, of his food stamp amount.

        • Bill, Wow, I never realized all the Native Alaskans who have their hand out for their PFD are Dunleavy supporters! If this was true, there would be a lot less Blue areas on the voting map after the last election. It seems to me that most Alaskans have their hands out for something, from both parties, just different priorities. You can find “characters” from every single city or village in this State like the Wasilla family you’re singularly pointing out, and not every single one of those “characters” are a Dunleavy supporter. Handouts, especially the PFD, are a bipartisan issue.

          • Ok S, I don’t recall even mentioning Native Alaskans but you seem to think many have their hand out for “their” PFD. My experience with them (Alaskan Natives) is that they know well what its like to live like cavemen and they clearly don’t want to go back to that lifestyle. Remember it was Kenai Senator Micceche who said we all have a choice whether/not we want to live like cavemen.
            I singled out that particular character because his testimony is not believable IMO. Nobody is eating squirrel in Alaska except by choice and nobody is eating red squirrels (I’ve eaten one). Ground squirrels is another story but I don’t believe this Wasilla BSer is getting ground squirrels there.
            No matter how you slice it S this governor bought his election by promising free money and those chickens are coming home to roost.

  4. The question everyone should be asking is what right do seniors have to expect a monthly payout at public expense?

    If we cannot identify some distinct right that they have to lay claim to this money then they have no right to it and we can cut this program without violating anyone’s rights.

    And being needy doesn’t create a special right.

    Seniors are a growing voting block and no one wants to lose them so politicians are working hard to buy their votes with your public money.

    That doesn’t hurt too bad when there’s plenty of oil cash flowing in but your state government has been trying to get an income tax in place. That makes it more personal.

    Support raiding the PFD to make up for the shortfall this year? Sure, that’ll work this year. Maybe next year. Maybe even the year after that. Just like raiding the state’s saving accounts worked for most of Walker’s term.

    That’ll eventually fall short too. It’s inevitable. Government will continue to grow.

    What’s happening right now isn’t about getting a full PFD…it’s about saying enough is enough and getting government under control before it gets any worse.

    Government has a set of core functions and responsibilities that we can easily afford if we cut the bloat that crept in over the past few decades.

    This senior benefits program is not within the core responsibilities of government. It’s just a feel good program that has no foundation in the Constitution. It exists because there was lots of extra cash lying around for legislatures to play Santa with and no one cared that seniors don’t actually have any natural or legal right to expect the rest of us to pay their some or any of their costs.

    End this program and all others like it. People need to be responsible for their own lives.

    • I see your point of view now. I pretty much agree that this program is a luxury and should not be exempt from budget cuts. That may have been in the Legislature’s mind last year. Dunleavy is proposing to END the program so I don’t understand his beef except for political deflection.
      There is some difference from the Dividend compared to this program because
      Senior Benefits are means-tested for age and income.
      Many people believe in “The Great Society” philosophy of LBJ – that we have a societal “responsibility” to care for the ill, elderly, and poor.
      The funding for Senior Benefits is but a minor part of our budgetary excess so I would rather cut the Dividend (shared by all) than cut the Senior Benefits.

    • PJ,
      Who do you think is responsible for building Alaska? Certainly not people like you, who wants to simply discard seniors. Most of the Alaskan seniors are the very people who built Alaska and you want to cast aside. As long as I can remember, (in Alaska since 1951), Alaskans have certainly taken care of their seniors. Most working Alaskans that are now seniors have had to use their earnings to provide for their families. Not much left over to invest or sock away like you think everyone has. I don’t believe you are an Alaskan either. If you were, you would have a heart. You will be a senior, if you aren’t already. If circumstances dictate, or did, that you not have enough for your “seniority”, how will you feel when some liberal wants to throw you away? (I’m a senior but I don’t receive any state funds for it). I sure don’t begrudge taking care of Alaskan seniors. If they received their full PFD, they would need much less help. Think about the shoe on the other foot for you.

  5. Here is the deal: Do you want Big Dividends or Big Government?
    The worst thing we could do to our State is to impose income or sales taxes in order to pay for either. – thank goodness that is off the table this year.
    “Dividends” are paid for performance – money that is in excess of operating costs that can thus be disbursed to the shareholders.
    If we stick to that principle we will be just fine.

    • Dividends are based on the Funds performance and are defined by Law. Change the Law or pay the dividend as defined by Statute. The Dividend was never intended to be funded by what’s left over. That is not a principle to live by.

    • You keep saying that about taxes but haven’t given a reason, Chris. And an income tax with a credit for the whole PFD against tax liability would give Alaskans a step up and non-residents paying their “fair” share, for a change. What’s not to like about that?

      • Income tax?? HOGWASH!! Cut spending. Very plain, very simple solution to the “money shortage” the dims have created, all on their own. Howl about what you think “can’t” be cut, all you want. The problem is bloated, unnecessary spending. The “education” funding is a joke. Millions spent on new schools, at least one that’s never had a student in it. It’s still sitting there, like a big white elephant. It’s almost like all the “new” schools are with a built in timer for demolishing. Usually only a few years. The student population in Alaska is shrinking. The spending on “education” is rising exponentially. For what? The students are less educated now than ever before. The “teachers” are paid MORE than ever before, and seem to be doing a lousy job. Alaskan college degrees are worthless. The insanity has to stop. CUT SPENDING!!! Period.

        • I don’t know Ben, was that supposed to be your reasoning as to why an income tax won’t work? Is that because you are one of those out-of-state workers who live in WA and don’t pay any taxes to AK or WA??

          • Bill,
            Obviously, you didn’t read my entire statement. Either that or you’re cherry picking. I have lived in Alaska since 1951. Nowhere else. I’m not a snowbird. I live here year ’round and always have. By what sense of fiscal responsibility do you base your desire for more taxes? Spending is the problem. It has reared it’s ugly head in the last administration, especially. I still say, cut spending! Cut spending to a level that matches the state revenue, from whatever legitimate source (not the PFD or your taxes) without putting additional burdens on “less than wealthy” Alaskans. That absolutely can and must be done. You can “band-aid” the problem with taxes and stealing the PFD, but you’re just “kicking the can (problem)” down the road for a few years. After the money is spent for dim/liberal projects, real bankruptcy will be in Alaska’s immediate future, no matter what source of funds you dream up. The liberal legislature is abusing their “fiduciary responsibility” to Alaskans. I assume someone as “astute” as you, knows what that means.

        • Ben, my idea of fiscal responsibility is more along the lines of someone who pays taxes will be more likely to pay attention to how those taxes are spent. Alaskans have not paid taxes since early 80s and it’s gotten us some pretty big budgets that are IMO our problems now-for example, how about that LIO building with bathrooms for each legislator, etc..
          Anyway, almost every state in the union has at least one form of State tax (income or sales) and many are doing just fine with their “fiscal responsibility.”
          You say to cut expenditures, but we already know that there are not enough cuts that can be made without prolonging our recent recession (see https://www.juneauempire.com/news/state-economy-shows-growth-but-budget-decision-looms/). Anyway, the less than fortunate have already ponied up half of their PFDs so far to make our economy work and my opinion is that it’s time for the better-off to step up to the plate.
          You evidently believe in keeping us in recession for what? A bigger PFD-you must be joking! Anyway, nothing wrong with increasing revenues to balance a budget-either your own or the State’s IMO.

    • Chris,
      The more I read your “posts”, the more I am convinced you are not Alaskan. Where are you from? California, Washington state, Oregon??? Maybe New York.

  6. Organized boroughs pay property taxes and some pay sales taxes.
    UNORGANIZED boroughs don’t pay property taxes and get their revenue from the state.. Now if the UNORGANIZED boroughs vote to stay unorganized they should pay a HEAD TAX DEDUCTION from their PFD..
    Only way to tax unorganized boroughs is to penalize everyone with a decreased PFD.. if we give everyone their correct PFD and increase property taxes to cover expenses for services that majority appear to want, unorganized boroughs still don’t pay for their services & Organized boroughs residents will pay more to make up….
    Also many part time residents are snow birding and receiving the PFD..

  7. Stop playing games with us residents in Alaska, you guys in Juneau creating a miserable pain in the stomach with your shenigans

  8. One aside. When I refer to liberals/dims as “dims”, I liken them to headlights on your car. You have a “bright” or “dim” choice. The “bright” choice allows a driver to see down the road to uncover potential obstacles far ahead. The “dim” choice, allows a driver to see only what’s right in front of them, thus leaving them fairly blind to those potential obstacles ahead. The correlation is obvious to me.

  9. “Unhappily, law is by no means confined to its own sphere. Nor is it merely in some ambiguous and debatable views that it has left its proper sphere. It has done more than this. It has acted in direct opposition to its proper end; it has destroyed its own object; it has been employed in annihilating that justice which it ought to have established, in effacing amongst Rights, that limit which it was its true mission to respect; it has placed the collective force in the service of those who wish to traffic, without risk and without scruple, in the persons, the liberty, and the property of others; it has converted plunder into a right, that it may protect it, and lawful defense into a crime, that it may punish it.
    How has this perversion of law been accomplished? And what has resulted from it?
    The law has been perverted through the influence of two very different causes—naked greed and misconceived philanthropy.”

    Excerpt From
    The Law
    Frédéric Bastiat
    This material may be protected by copyright.

    • PJ,
      I thought this debate was among Alaskans. I can see that’s not the case with you. Your post by Bastiat sounds like something from “Das Kapital”, or worse.
      “Naked greed and misconceived philanthropy”, is so far off base, I can’t believe a true Alaskan would post that, let alone say it. Disrespect is rampant in your opinion, I’m disappointed to say. By the way, where are you from? Sure don’t sound like an Alaskan.

  10. “The Law, by Frederic Bastiat is a classic work of political philosophy taken from the history of the human quest for a government that works. It was written by Bastiat in the early 1800’s after the establishment of The United States, which greatly influences his work. It reflects the reasoning of our Founding Fathers in the establishing of a new form of government.

    It is as fresh today as it was when it was written and is ever more important to our nation as it ages and moves away from our founding principles and the history that brought about our birth as a nation. This book is reprinted with the hope that we can grasp once again the value of limited government and the freedom of the individual.”


    Order it and read it, Ben…you might learn something. Or maybe you disagree with the ideological philosophies of our founding fathers and are more familiar with such things as Das Kapital…

    Whatever you decide to do, though, it would be wise to stop acting like an ignorant fool. Just a thought.

    • Your rhetoric proves my point. Careful when you call someone an ignorant fool. Look in the mirror.
      Bastiat did not compliment or endorse our founding fathers. Read it again. BTW, I despise marx and every thing he stood for. Up yours.

  11. Ben,
    You seem to have difficulty with reading comprehension. Do a quick search of the internet, swallow your anger, and try to concentrate – from Wikipedia:

    Bastiat asserted that the sole purpose of government is to protect the right of an individual to life, liberty and property and why it is dangerous and morally wrong for government to interfere with an individual’s other personal matters. From this, Bastiat concluded that the law cannot defend life, liberty and property if it promotes legal or legalized plunder which he defined as using government force and laws to take something from one individual and give it to others (as opposed to a transfer of property via mutually-agreed contracts without using fraud nor violent threats against the other party which Bastiat considered a legitimate transfer of property).

    In The Law, Bastiat explains that if the privileged classes or socialists use the government for legalized plunder, this will encourage the other socioeconomic class to also use legal plunder and that the correct response to both the socialists and the corporatists is to cease all legal plunder. Bastiat also explains in The Law why his opinion is that the law cannot defend life, liberty and property if it promotes socialist policies. When used to obtain legalized plunder for any group, he says that the law is perverted against the only things (life, liberty and property) it is supposed to defend.

  12. The quotation marks (“”) around the passage indicate that the words describing Bastiat were written by someone else…in this case Amazon.

    Only an ignorant fool would miss that.

    • Your “words” that are written by someone else (Bastiat), require a little more than your “reading comprehension” to “get the “gist”, it appears. I stand by my statements.
      I’ve noticed that, some ‘posters’, using the convenience of anonymity, tend to develop “chutzpah” that is not normally theirs, to be rude, insulting and demeaning to anyone disagreeing with them. Do you think you fit that description? I really don’t think you would have the nerve to talk with such demeaning rhetoric to my face. I’m tired of your BS. I repeat. I stand by my statements.

      • I also “get” what your hero (Bastiat) is saying. That, if the government (Alaskan) distributes the PFD to the citizens (“is used to obtain legalized plunder for any group) instead of keeping it in the public coffers to be spent by the government on “public” squandering, the Alaskan government is “perverting the law”.

      • I meant the senior benefits, not the PFD, but the PFD kind of falls in the same category, according to Bastiat.

  13. Ben, it’s been interesting watching you slowly melt down with your ridiculous statements about “true Alaskans” and your tough guy posturing.

    You wrote that you’ve been in Alaska since 1951…so you’re fairly elderly yet you’re basically calling a total stranger out (anonymously while damning anonymous posters…haha) on a comments page?

    Age and wisdom are supposed to go together but you do prove the exception.

    And your dim bulb, bright bulb insulting idiocy. Over the top.

    Your postings have degenerated into borderline ranting and have become totally uninteresting so I’m going to let you go now. You’ve nothing to offer, certainly nothing intelligent.

    I’ve got a side bet going on how you’ll respond to this final comment…don’t let me down!

Comments are closed.