Restoring Trust In The Alaska Legislature: Why The 2016 PFD Restoration Act Is Non-Negotiable

Contributed by David Eastman

As it stands today, the Alaska Legislature and the governor have broken faith with the people. That faith will not return quickly, but for even a portion of it to return over the next two years, the 2016 PFD Restoration Act needs to be one of the first orders of business when the legislature reconvenes. Passage of the bill would restore to Alaskans the portion of this year’s dividend that has been withheld by the government (approximately $1,030 per Alaskan), with dividends arriving on Alaskan doorsteps as early as February.

Yes a lawsuit is being pursued against the withholding of the PFD in the first place. But the outcomes of lawsuits are uncertain, and even a favorable outcome will do nothing to restore trust in a legislature that stood by silently while the governor attempted to slash this year’s PFD to less than half the amount set by state law.

Failure to pay this year’s full dividend is yet another example of Alaska’s failure to meet its obligations. When payments are not made on time, roads are not plowed on time and budgets are not passed on time, Alaskans suffer the consequences. It only follows that those responsible for the delays should be held to account for their failures as well.

As a current candidate for the state legislature, if I am elected to replace Rep. Wes Keller, I will gladly stand beside Sen. Mike Dunleavy in sponsoring the 2016 PFD Restoration Act in the state house. Four other prospective house members have already expressed interest in doing the same - Rep. Tammie Wilson, Aaron Lojewski, William Weatherby, and Rep. Benjamin Nageak. That number will grow as current and future legislators take their stand with the people and safeguard what is in their interest, over and above what is in the interest of a state bureaucracy that has outgrown our ability to pay for it.

As a state, we have courted and welcomed government spending to a greater degree than any other state. We now boast the highest government spending, per capita, of any other. Our own state government now incurs even more government spending in an effort to market to voters the notion that we have done all we can to cut the budget, and now we need to tax the people and curtail the permanent fund dividend. Truly, there is the world of Juneau and then there is the world in which all the rest of us try to work and live.

In the world of Juneau, the PFD is too big and must be “restructured” so that most of it goes toward future government spending. In the world of Juneau, even while our state is in a recession, we need to tax the people more to pay for the government. In the world of Juneau, the government is what must stay, even if the rest of us eventually have to leave the state for lack of jobs in a shrinking state economy.

The good news is only for those in government it seems. Good news? In the very midst of the current fiscal crisis, government spending in Alaska is actually higher this year than it was last year. It’s fantastic. At this rate, the private sector will continue to deteriorate and the government sector will only increase its gains. Does anyone, in either sector, see this movie having a happy ending?

Earlier this year, the University of Alaska’s Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) compared the net result to Alaska’s economy of each of the state’s various fiscal options. ISER concluded that reducing Alaska’s private sector, through reductions in the PFD, had the very worst possible effect on Alaska’s overall state economy than any of the other options studied. Worse than a state income tax, worse than a state sales tax and worse than any of the other fiscal options. For every $1 taken from the PFD, the state economy will lose $1.40. A state income tax would be a terrible idea, just like it’s been a terrible idea for each of the other states who have tried state income taxes in recent years. Yet even a state income tax would only reduce the state economy $1.30 for every $1 taken.

 Throughout his time in office, Rep. Keller spoke very forcefully about the people’s ownership of the permanent fund and the PFD. It does not belong to government. It is not a piggy bank for the government to run to when it has spent all it has and wants more. It belongs to the people. And I for one, believe the people will much more wisely their money than the government will spend it for them. If your representatives in the legislature have not yet risen to support the 2016 PFD Restoration Act, perhaps you should suggest that now would be an excellent time for them to do so.

David Eastman is a candidate for the Alaska State House in District 10. He is endorsed by fiscal conservatives such as Brad Keithley, founder of Alaskans for Sustainable Budgets, and social conservatives such as Eagle Forum Alaska and Jack Phelps, founder of the Alaska Private and Home Educators Association (APHEA).