Pay PFD now, make long-term fiscal plan for Alaska

The Ship of State, our government, has lost direction.

  • Tuesday, May 19, 2020 11:36pm
  • Opinion

Alaska is in a perfect political storm of trouble. We all know it’s due to the COVID-19 attack, oil and investments bottoming out, and people struggling with losses. Paying a PFD now in this financial hardship is the fastest and most efficient way to get money into Alaskans’ hands. But politicians haven’t approved this urgently needed lifeline. Instead of addressing fiscal problems for the public good, most of our leaders — elected to help — are making them worse.

The Ship of State, our government, has lost direction. It has been drifting for years not addressing problems of deficits and declining revenues with reforms. The legislators failed to cooperate and act to make a sustainable fiscal plan. Instead of working together for solutions they are hijacking easy money, taxing the people’s PFD and savings. This endangers the Alaska Permanent Fund and our state. We urgently need a course correction from politicians. Our state is dangerously close to shipwreck on the fiscal cliff ahead in 2021.

In the current legislative session there is strong support for paying the PFD now to help Alaskans and our economy. But, legislative leaders chose to defeat this vote. They said other benefits are on the way. However, with over 40,000 Alaskans filing for unemployment, the system is overwhelmed. The State will not be able to immediately help all who apply. News stories report that Federal CARES money will not quickly reach all who apply, if at all. The feds will not immediately provide aid for job losses and businesses closed by government mandates to protect public health.

Some legislators say, “We can’t afford to pay the PFD,” as if the fund earnings are entirely for government. That is not the sole purpose of the permanent fund, established and owned by citizens. When Gov. Jay Hammond and I, along with others, founded the fund, it was intended for savings to grow for future generations. The PFD was set up as a direct, equal benefit for Alaskans by law when earnings are available. Hammond said that if money was needed for services, government can “claw it back in taxes and fees,” not confiscate the PFD. The connection between the fund and the people is maintained by the PFD. Policy leaders, like Dave Rose, former director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., have said the PFD is the reason why the fund has grown, and not been looted and destroyed already. We can’t afford to not provide and protect the PFD.

The Spring PFD payment is not a partisan issue. Both former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D) and former Gov. Sean Parnell (R) joined forces in the media recently to call for the PFD payment now.

The truth is that paying the PFD is possible right away! The funds are available. There is a simple, ready process available to pay a minimum $1,300. Legislators can vote through the online teleconferencing system. The 2019 PFD applications can be used to distribute funds for the most efficient and direct way to get money to residents.

Why are voters reelecting politicians who are damaging our wealth and trust? Many leaders refuse to consider every fiscal option on the table and involve the public in approving a fiscal plan. As savings are disappearing politicians will have to stop stalling. Start holding hearings and statewide surveys on all the options including: cuts, taxes, government efficiencies and consolidation, fair PFD formula, other new revenue, spending cap and constitutional amendments. The people of Alaska must approve what services are needed and how to pay for them. Spending down too much from savings accounts on government is theft from future generations and must stop.

I’ve been on boats most of my life, from enlisting in the Navy at 17 with the Seabees in WWII in Guadalcanal to captain on commercial fishing vessels. And now at 94, ferrying my 65’ tugboat to Homer for a U.S. mail contract for Halibut Cove. Any seafarer wants to survive a storm and find a safe harbor. That desire for security is shared by many Alaskans who are struggling in these difficult times. Legislators, do what’s right. Pay the PFD now to help Alaskans get through this COVID crisis. Then, turn the Ship of State on a straight course to economic safety with a long-term fiscal plan, including reconnecting the PFD to the fund in the Constitution to protect Alaskans.

Clem Tillion is a retired commercial fisherman, a former 18-year Alaska state legislator and past chair of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. He is currently chairman of the Permanent Fund Defenders. (www.pfdak.com)


• By Clem Tillion


More in Opinion

Willy Dunne is a member of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. (Courtesy photo)
Vote by mail is safe, fiscally responsible

All registered borough voters would receive a ballot in the mail a few weeks ahead of election day.

It’s time for a real living wage

The federal minimum wage was last increased in 2009.

Alaska Voices: Oil taxes, what oil taxes?

Alaska needs a fair share from the sale of oil to economically recover and have a meaningful future.

Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson testifies before state senators during a confirmation hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019, in Juneau. (Becky Bohrer | Associated Press File)
Clarkson: Even during pandemic, there is help for domestic violence victims

As a community we have a responsibility to care for and seek to protect our most vulnerable.

Opinion: Finding the intrinsic beauty of sadness

Knowing sadness can be a healthy thing.

Dave Reaves (courtesy photo)
Alaska Voices: The time to invest in Alaska is now

We call on Gov. Mike Dunleavy to help move job creating infrastructure projects forward.

The last strand of elodea on the Kenai Peninsula was found during a survey in May 2019. This fragment is brown and brittle, signs of dying from having been treated with herbicide since 2017. (Photo by Matt Bowser/Kenai National Wildlife Refuge).
Alaska Voices: Can Elodea be eradicated?

Infestations have been found on the Kenai Peninsula, around Cordova, and in the Fairbanks area.

COVID-19 harms children in seen and unseen ways

There has been an alarming decrease in all routine health care, including routine vaccinations.

Pay PFD now, make long-term fiscal plan for Alaska

The Ship of State, our government, has lost direction.

Commercial fishing boats are rafted together in May 2016 in the harbor in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Alaska Voices: Mandates crucial to safety of fishing fleets

As a vessel operator, you are responsible for your crew’s compliance with the mandate.

The entrance to the Kenai Police Department, as seen in Kenai, Alaska, on April 1, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
                                The front of the Kenai Police Department as seen on Dec. 10, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska Voices: In honor of the thin blue line

During this pandemic our police officers cannot stay home, socially distance, and work remotely.