Rep. Ben Carpenter, a Nikiski Republican, speaks during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Rep. Ben Carpenter, a Nikiski Republican, speaks during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Rep. Ben Carpenter: A missed opportunity to secure then future of the permanent fund

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

The Alaska House of Representatives had the opportunity this week to vote on the House Ways and Means Committee’s constitutional amendment that would put to the voters whether they wanted to secure the future of the Permanent Fund and the Permanent Fund Dividend. Sadly, the House did not vote to do so.

Alaska’s Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) has long been a vital aspect of the state’s economy, providing residents with an annual source of income. However, recent challenges have threatened the future of this essential program. Government growth over the last decade has been funded by reducing the PFD. The continued growth will only consume it entirely.

House Joint Resolution 7 sought to return control of the PFD to the people of Alaska by allowing them to vote on the constitutional amendment. If voted yes by Alaskans, the resolution would have removed the dividend from the annual budget process, providing citizens with a direct say in how the dividend is managed. By reinstating the practice that has been in law for decades, the amendment would have ensured that dividends are paid to eligible residents without the need for annual appropriations, promoting transparency and stability in the distribution process.

HJR 7 would have reflected a commitment to democratic principles by placing these proposed amendments before the voters in the November election. By actively involving the electorate in the decision-making process, the amendment sought to strengthen the relationship between the government and the people, fostering a sense of collective responsibility and empowerment among citizens.

Additionally, the amendment would have ensured the long-term prosperity of Alaska by constitutionally enshrining the Permanent Fund Dividend, providing a solid foundation for future generations, ensuring that the benefits of the fund continue to reach Alaskans for years to come.

The Alaska House had a clear and straightforward solution to the challenges facing the Permanent Fund Dividend. By reaffirming the commitment to paying the dividend, ensuring transparency and consistency, the amendment would have laid the groundwork for a stable and prosperous future for Alaska and its residents. I remain committed and hopeful that in the future we will allow Alaskans to vote to secure the future of the Permanent Fund Dividend for generations to come.

Ben Carpenter, representative for House District 8, is chairman of the Ways & Means Committee. Contact Rep.Ben.Carpenter@akleg.gov or call 907-465-3779. Visit https://bencarpenterpost.com/.

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