Walker's crisis narrative being used to fool Alaskans - Must Read Alaska
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Wednesday, June 3, 2020
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Walker’s crisis narrative being used to fool Alaskans

By SEN. MIKE DUNLEAVY
GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

Have you ever wondered why every year since Gov. Bill Walker took office the state’s estimated budget deficit has been reported as $2.5 billion?

Have you asked yourself why the Walker administration estimated oil production would fall by 12 percent this year when it actually increased by 2.5 percent?

Why does he have such a pessimistic view of Alaska’s future? The answer to these questions is simple. Gov. Walker pushes a narrative of “crisis” because it justifies the economically destructive actions that he has taken during his tenure.

I am optimistic about the future of Alaska and the economic potential of our great state.  Rather than the negative picture that Gov. Walker paints of oil revenues, the reality is a very different story.

Oil producers have done a great job of finding new oil and gas. This year, 533,400 barrels a day will flow through the pipeline, and increased production is projected for the future. Contrary to the state’s forecast of $56 per barrel for the rest of the fiscal year, the price was recently close to $64 per barrel.

Clearly, and perhaps intentionally, Gov. Walker and his administration wildly underestimated the revenue that oil would generate by hundreds of millions of dollars.

But what if the price of oil falls?  How do we pay our bills?  These are questions that Gov. Jay Hammond and the people of Alaska had the foresight to consider and answer years ago.

Alaska has a permanent stream of future revenue to help fund government – the Alaska Permanent Fund. When increased oil revenues and this year’s earnings of the Permanent Fund are added to the $6.8 billion of income generated from the fund last year (half of which can be used for state spending), along with a portion of funding from the Constitutional budget reserve, we are able to cover the cost of government and still distribute a full dividend to every qualified Alaskan.

Hammond and the founders of the PFD also knew that future governors and legislatures would be constantly tempted to spend the earnings of the fund. To protect the earnings from the insatiable appetite of politicians, they established the permanent fund dividend program or PFD.

Since its inception, and until recently, Permanent Fund earnings have been paid according to statue, with half available for use by government spending and half paid to qualified Alaskans.

Walker radically broke this long-standing tradition in 2016 when he vetoed half of the dividend appropriation.

Then, in 2017, the Legislature only partially funded the dividend. The governor justified his decision to not fully fund the PFD because of “our fiscal crisis.”  Alaskans were led to believe that part of their PFD had to be cut to pay for the deficit.

But what many Alaskans do not realize is that the thousands of dollars taken from Alaskan families did not pay for government.

That’s right. Not one penny of the PFD cut went to help pay for government. It sits in the earnings reserve account of the Permanent Fund and is not being used to help fund the budget, and it is not being used by you.

As a result of the governor’s actions, a larger concern has emerged: How do we protect the Permanent Fund, its revenue stream, and the PFD from politicians only interested in growing government? In addition to electing leaders who understand fiscal restraint, we must provide constitutional protection for the fund.  We must use the traditional 50/50 plan that was established years ago to protect the earnings and dividends, and properly inflation-proof the fund.

Govs. Hammond and Hickel recognized that the dividend was not and is not a government handout. They felt strongly about protecting the PFD because they knew that its earnings were for each Alaskan as a member of our owner-state.

In 2018, we should restore Walker’s raid of half the FY 2016 dividend, restore the Legislature’s raid of half of the FY 2017 dividend, and pay full dividends going forward.

The people of Alaska should be part of the process to protect the fund by insisting the Legislature pass a constitutional amendment referendum that goes to the people for a vote to protect the PFD as securely as the corpus of the fund itself. If legislators and the governor defy the will of Alaskans, then they will risk being voted out of office by the very people they purport to represent.

The Permanent Fund has worked well for 35 years, and it will continue to do so if the people of Alaska demand it.

Senator Mike Dunleavy, represents Senate District E – Wasilla, Palmer, Talkeetna, Delta Junction, Glennallen, Valdez, and Whittier.

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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

  • They took over half the Dividend two years running, but didn’t need it to fund gov’t spending…that’s the truth we’ve been waiting to see in print. The Valley Senator is not spinning this stuff up. We will be expecting more from the Valley Senator !

  • Great article with facts. It has all the reasons why Walker will lose in a landslide. Alaskans are much smarter than he gives them credit. They recognize his slight of hand China / Japan moves as attempts to make him look good going into next year’s election. Alaskans recognize smoke and mirrors hucksters. And they will not forgive him for his veto of neatly $1,000 of their PFD, while at the same time spending state money like a drunken sailor on a fantasy pipeline. Or spending money by giving his friends lucrative consulting contracts. Or by calling 7 special sessions that accomplished nothing for the reasons they were called but cost the people a bundle of money. And for nothing! Dunleavy nailed it

  • “Why does he have such a pessimistic view of Alaska’s future? ” Because Trump was never supposed to get elected because the fix was supposed to be a sure thing. Now that the Globalists can not impose their will on our country to a tenth of the degree of which they used to, the free market has flourished and we are seeing 30% gains on the stock market etc.
    To be blunt- this POTUS was never to have been a remote possibility from the outset of the race. Little did they know that there were good forces at work in the same stratosphere that outwit the jackals.

  • Why wait for an election? Walker has spent millions behind the scenes on his own whims and defrauded all Alaskans!
    Impeach this chaotic Governor

  • Another clear, to-the-point article outlining the fiscal state of Alaska. Alaskans, you need to understand that the governor/legislature took your PFDs to grow the State’s piggy bank. Meanwhile, your piggy bank got much, much smaller. Taking money from citizens under the pretense of needing it to keep the government running is deceitful. Pay attention!

  • Our MD for fiscal restraint! Right on Mike, you got my vote,but if we do need to use the PF Earnings then give use a land voucher for the use! Reality will soon sink in that wealth creation is from land and the investment in it!!! Give us this remedy Doctor Mike and watch Alaskans grow healthy and wise.

  • Alaskans will lose the remainder of their PF dividend, if they vote for Walker.

  • Right on Senator Dunleavy. Count me in for future support

  • Senator Dunleavy…Thank you for being our voice and would you consider moving to the Kenai Peninsula?

  • Great column, Mike

    Jim Crawford, Chairman
    Alaska Trump Campaign 2016.

  • Dunleavy’s student deferment expires at the end of the month. He’s 1-A, and it’s time to draft him for governor.

  • The budget deficit started with passage of SB 21, which gave everything to the big three oil corporations, and not when Walker took office, and this occurred, before the oil price dropped.