Here we go again, seems like I’ve been defending all three of these issues my whole political life, 40-plus years. The difference this time that we have a reasonable governor who is rationally trying to permanently resolve these recurring issues, to the extent possible once and for all by enshrining them in the State Constitution. You’ll hear politicians, bureaucrats and special interest howling that this will restrict their ability to fund essential government services. Nonsense, it will however provide discipline and require discussion with “We the People” to determine what essential services are and how and by whom, they should be efficiently provided.
To accomplish this Gov. Dunleavy has proposed three constitutional amendments, one would create a formula to put a cap on spending, another would require a vote of Alaskans to increase taxes and finally he would constitutionally guarantee the PFD. I strongly support these amendments and urge every Alaskan who wants to put a lid on state government growth and preserve the PFD to get up off of your posteriors and go to work. You can help by aggressively encouraging your family and friends to do likewise. You can do this by becoming politically active on this one issue; let’s focus and do this. Passing SJR 4, 5 and 6 is the single most important issue our legislative representatives must pass this session. Your involvement is very critical as it takes a two thirds vote of each the House and the Senate to pass them so we can vote on them in the next general election. That’s clearly a major challenge but one we can and must do! Then all we have to do is to pass them with a majority vote and Alaska and Alaskans will be in a much better place.
Let’s briefly discuss each amendment. First the permanent fund is made up almost exclusively of Royalty income, that is 12.5% of the value of the extracted oil. It is critically important to understand the Royalty income rightly belongs to the People and should be distributed to them as equitably as possible, while the severance tax is rightly imposed by the state government and should be used to fund appropriate government services. These are two distinctly different pots of money and should serve different purposes. Jay Hammond and I did not agree on the income tax repeal but we did agree that the royalty income does belong to the people directly. To quote Gov. Hammond in 1980, he said while discussing the royalty income that “we are taking wealth that belongs to the people and making sure that at least some of it is funneled through their pockets instead of through their elected officials.” Jay clearly understood that the dividend, ownership rights, should be treated differently than tax revenue. He also strongly wanted a dividend provision in the original Constitutional Amendment establishing the permanent fund legislation but the Legislature would not go along so he had to drop it. Too bad so sad! It’s accurate to say that back in the ‘80s Jay and I both wanted the PFD enshrined in the Constitution. I still do and would like to think that he would also. Let’s do it now, we’ve waited long enough.
Next, a constitutional spending limit, this was approved in the early 1980s but it was literally a joke. The Legislature was reacting to strong public opposition to their spending spree and to pacify the peasants they created a title that said, Spending Limit, but they knew the formula was so high that it would never be activated. I was there and saw them literally joking and laughing about pulling a fast one on the people. Let us now pass the governor’s spending limit, which is calculated to work.
Lastly, very importantly and quite self-explanatory, let’s constitutionally protect our right to vote on any new taxes. Many jurisdictions require voter approval on tax increases as it is a traditional American concept. We are the only nation ever founded on the principles of individual rights and responsibility. Let’s honor that responsibility and those principles.
We can make this happen but we can also miss the opportunity to take a bit of control over our own destiny. As always it’s up to each of us individually and we Alaskans collectively to put enough pressure on our elected representatives to persuade them to at least give us the opportunity to vote our convictions. You can do your part by persuading your friends and family to do the same.
Getting these three constitutional amendments passed through the Legislature is the most important issue before us this session of the Legislature.
Let’s just do it.
Richard Randolph served eight years in the Alaska Legislature and lives in Fairbanks.
• Richard Randolph served eight years in the Alaska Legislature and lives in Fairbanks.