What others say: No easy answer

  • Sunday, March 18, 2018 10:52am
  • Opinion

Alaska Permanent Fund dividends pay for education and health care, among other things.

The state Legislature is discussing enshrining the dividend in the Alaska Constitution.

The House unveiled House Joint Resolution 23 this week, which is designed to amend the Constitution with the intent to protect dividend payouts and allow use of permanent fund earnings to address the state’s multi-billion-dollar deficit.

HJR 23 doesn’t specify what the payouts would be. This would allow future Legislatures to adjust the amount based on what it needs for other state programs, such as education and health care.

Specifying a payout amount conflicts with other constitutional provisions, according to an Anchorage Daily News interview with Rep. Paul Seaton.

This means payout amounts would be at the whim of future lawmakers, whose voting record would be available at re-election time. Voters would respond to their particular legislator’s permanent fund payout decision at the ballot box.

Both major political parties will have to agree with this idea for it to be approved in the Legislature; the House majority needs five votes from the Republican minority, and the Senate is controlled by Republicans.

As lawmakers entertain this idea and others to resolve the budget deficit, there’s no easy answer.

While the state might need permanent fund dollars for its programs, Alaskans who receive dividend payouts often use those for necessities, such as health care. Many also use the extra cash to pay for school-related items for their K-12 family members or to create a bank account for higher education.

Both the state and families have “programs” to pay for.

— Ketchikan Daily News, March 14, 2018

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