Save the rhetoric for election season

  • Saturday, April 2, 2016 5:57pm
  • Opinion

As the Legislature focuses on establishing a new mechanism to pay for state government, opposition to plans involving the use of Alaska Permanent Fund earnings has ramped up.

While we encourage a vigorous debate on an issue that affects all Alaskans, we’re concerned to see some of the disingenuous ways in which the plans are being characterized. Indeed, they seem more like negative campaign advertising than advocacy for a legitimate point of view.

Case in point: there are voices in Alaska referring to any plan that uses funds from the permanent fund earnings reserve as a “raid on the permanent fund” and a threat to annual dividend payments.

Phrasing it that way will certainly get people riled up, but let’s be honest about what that sentiment actually is — a demand that lawmakers prioritize benefits to individual Alaskans over the necessities of the state as whole.

Unfortunately, mischaracterization of the debate does little to advance a solution the state’s fiscal crisis.

The facts of the matter are that state government has been cut dramatically over the past few years, and lawmakers indicate that they will continue to do so, but with oil prices low for the foreseeable future, there isn’t enough revenue for the state to cover the services required by the state constitution or demanded by Alaskans. Plans being considered by the Legislature combine a mix of cuts, new taxes, and use of the permanent fund earnings reserve — an account which has always been available to lawmakers to fund state government.

The permanent fund’s principal remains constitutionally protected.

Many lawmakers have indicated that they would like to see the dividend program continue, and there is certainly room for debate as to the best ratio of cuts, taxes and permanent fund earnings. Likewise, there is an argument to be made that permanent fund dividends have the potential to benefit Alaskans as much as state spending.

Let’s have that debate, but let’s make sure it’s an honest one. Decisions made by lawmakers over the next couple of weeks will impact Alaskans for many years to come. Let’s save the inflammatory rhetoric for election season.

Better yet, let’s avoid it altogether.

More in Opinion

Gov. Mike Dunleavy discusses his veto of a wide-ranging education bill during a press conference March 16 at the Alaska State Capitol. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Governor, please pay more attention to Alaskans

Our governor has been a busy guy on big issues.

A roll of “I voted” stickers sit at the Alaska Division of Elections office in Juneau in 2022. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Strengthening democracy: Native vote partners to boost voter registration

GOTNV and VPC are partnering to send over 4,000 voter registration applications this month to addresses and P.O. boxes all over Alaska

Priya Helweg is the acting regional director and executive officer for the Region 10 Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
Happy Pride Month

This month is dedicated to acknowledging and uplifting the voices and experiences of the LGBTQI+ community

Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
Former President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower after he was found guilty of all counts in his criminal trial in New York on May 30.
Opinion: Trump’s new fixers

Fixers from Alaska and elsewhere step in after guilty verdict

Ballot booths are set up inside Kenai City Hall on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Perspective from an election worker

Here is what I know about our Kenai Peninsula Borough election system

Apayauq Reitan, the first transgender woman to participate in the Iditarod, tells the House Education Committee on March 30, 2023, why she opposes a bill restricting transgender rights. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: The imaginary transgender sports crisis

House Bill 183 is a right-wing solution to a problem that doesn’t exist now and never will.

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, speaks in favor of overriding a veto of Senate Bill 140 during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Session ends with budget, dividend and bills passed

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

The Alaska State Capitol. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Listen to PAs; support Senate Bill 115: Modernizing PA Practice in Alaska

Health care is rapidly evolving, demanding a more flexible and responsive system

Mount Redoubt can be seen across Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion file photo)
Opinion: Hilcorp Alaska: Powering Southcentral Alaska — past, present and future

Hilcorp Alaska has and will continue to fully develop our Cook Inlet basin leasehold

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, speaks in favor of overriding a veto of Senate Bill 140 during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024 (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Collegiality matters

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Juneau Empire file photo
Larry Persily.
Opinion: Alaska might as well embrace the past

The governor, legislators, municipal officials and business leaders are worried that the Railbelt will run short of natural gas before the end of the decade