By Peter Segall
Four lucky Alaskans were awarded thousands of dollars each Tuesday night, following the state’s first ever Permanent Fund dividend raffle.
A total of $32,617.50 was given out in the raffle with the first place winner getting $17,396 and last place walking away with $2,174.50.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy hosted the raffle at Harborview Elementary School flanked by state officials and Sen. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, who drafted the legislation that created the event.
Started by an act of the Legislature in 2018, Alaskans had the opportunity to donate money from their PFDs in increments of $100, according to Lauren Gilliam, deputy press secretary for the governor. Each donation of $100 equaled one ticket in the raffle.
Fifty percent of the money raised by the donations will be put toward supplemental grants for education. Twenty-five percent will be put into a new Education Endowment Fund and the remaining 25% goes to the raffle fund.
According to the Department of Revenue, there were 8,698 entries into the raffle, which translated to $869,800 in total proceeds.
Of that, $434,900 will go to supplemental grants, $217,450 to the endowment fund, and $217,450 to the raffle fund. The remainder of the raffle fund, $184,832.50, will be put into the raffle fund for next year, adding to the potential payouts for winners.
Mike Barnhill, acting commissioner for DOR, said the program began as an effort to turn the public school trust fund into an endowment fund which would grow its assets through investments. Through the conversion to an endowment fund, and a good investment year, the public school trust fund grew by over $100 million, Barnhill said.
It was Bishop’s idea to add a raffle to incentivize Alaskans to contribute towards education, according to Barnhill.
“At the end of the day, this is for the children,” Bishop said at the ceremony. “This is Alaska’s future.”
Tickets with the names of entrants were put into a metal tumbler, secured by an Alaska State Trooper. Dunleavy, Bishop, Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, and Education Commissioner Michael Johnson took turns spinning the tumbler before Johnson drew the names of the winners.
Winners would be notified almost immediately by phone, Barnhill said. The names of the winners were given, but no additional information was made public.
First place went to James Johnson (“no relation” quipped Commissioner Johnson when he drew the name,) who won 8% of the winnings or more than $17,000.
Second place was Joshua Foster with $8,698, third place was Dentasia James with $4,349 and fourth place went to Laura Hayes with $2,174.50.