Community Perspective

We are getting robbed! It’s the PFD rip-off madness

Over the past four years, first Gov. Bill Walker and then your legislators have ignored the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend law and used $5,037 of my money to balance their bloated budget.

I think Alaskans need to demand their money back and stop this madness.

The chart shows how they took $3.3 billion we Alaskans should have received.

So who got my money? A bloated bureaucracy did. I analyzed our state workforce compared to the same programs in other states based on staff per capita, percentage of total workforce, and total spending. We would need to cut at least 50% to get it down to the national average. We need to cut 30% out of most programs just to get it down to the next highest state. I’ll publish that analysis in a future column.

They took $5,037 from every qualifying Alaskan, rich and poor, to fund a bureaucracy that is twice the size it should be. We spend far more than any other state per capita and over three times what many states spend. We do not need to spend so much more here. That $3.3 billion, by law, is for Alaskans.

Taking your PFD to fund a bloated state government is a tax, a very unfair tax that affects the poorest Alaskans most.

So how the heck did this happen? Here’s the real story:

The permanent fund amendment was voted on and written into our Constitution in 1975, creating a “dedicated fund” that is exempted from a general constitutional prohibition on dedicating state funds. The amendment contains a clause requiring all income from the fund to go to the general fund “unless otherwise provided by law.”

The permanent fund dividend is supposed to be funded by a portion of the income from the fund defined by a formula. The PFD was authorized by statute, not a constitutional amendment. Since a statute to direct income from the fund was anticipated in the permanent fund amendment, we all assumed the amendment, when combined with this separate law governing the dividend program, exempted the dividend from the “anti-dedication” clause in the Constitution. Without a change to the dividend law, Alaskans were to be paid automatically, outside of the traditional appropriation process. The Legislature was not supposed to be able to change it unless they passed another law. Our PFD was safe.

Walker’s thievery of your 2016 PFD was challenged in court by Sen. Bill Wielechowski and two old-time Alaska politicians — Clem Tillion and Rick Halford. They lost. Bummer. We should have passed another constitutional amendment in the first place.

Where are we now?

After first fighting Walker and saying he didn’t have the right to take the PFD but then emboldened by the Supreme Court giving thieving Walker a pass, your legislators got used to taking your money themselves. It didn’t matter to them that the law says Alaskans should get that money. They didn’t even bother repealing the law or changing the PFD formula. Then they forced Gov. Dunleavy to keep all the bloated state programs by passing a budget much higher than the one he proposed. They’re even joining ranks with big government supporters to throw him out. The happy turncoats suppress guys like Democrat Wielechowski, who wants to return our stolen money.

They are going to rip you off again, just watch.

What can I do about it? Gov. Dunleavy believes Alaskans should get a full PFD. He wants to reduce the bureaucracy to the right size in order to fund a full PFD. The Legislature thinks they are entitled to that PFD money. They do whatever they want. It’s now up to you and me to stop them.

I am going to demand my money back and work very hard to throw out the turncoats — every single one who voted against a full PFD. Work with me to vote in new legislators who have the governor’s back. These guys have failed us. Vote in the August primary election for new candidates who will right-size the state programs, restore a full PFD, and return billions to Alaskans.

Fred Vreeman is a retired engineer with decades of experience writing, managing and reviewing capital improvement and maintenance projects for industry and the state. He is now in the tourism industry and is the new owner of Alaska Grizzly Lodge.

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