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Community Perspective

Settling the Permanent Fund question for all time

Recently, Fairbanks’ former senator was kind enough to remind Alaskans exactly why the Permanent Fund Dividend must be taken out of the hands of politicians. His opposition to the coalition plan, which would allow Alaskans to vote on constitutionalizing the PFD, reveals his true colors.

Mr. Coghill’s resistance to the will of the people is not surprising. After all, it’s one of the reasons he was unceremoniously removed from office in the last election. But what is surprising is his open admission that a 50-50 PFD — one where Alaskans and state government share the Permanent Fund’s bounty equally — is insufficient to satiate their big government appetites. The question must be asked: If not 50%, how much of Alaskans’ money does the government need? 

It’s important to recognize the significance of the coalition plan. After six long years, both sides have finally come together to propose a solution that could settle the Permanent Fund question for all time. By placing both the dividend and the 50-50 split into the constitution, Alaskans would receive around $2,300. Not only would that be the highest amount ever distributed, it would rapidly increase each year as our investments appreciate. At the same time, the plan recognizes the changing economy and the need to fund state services in a post-oil economy. Finally, it would put the Power Cost Equalization program into the Permanent Fund, taking another annual political football off the table.

Whichever side of the debate you are on, it’s hard to imagine there will ever be a better solution that does more to move Alaska forward. By addressing both the PFD and PCE in one fell swoop, Alaskans could put two paralyzing crises into the rearview mirror in a way that gives everyone something to smile about.

Alaskans get it. For the past half decade, we’ve watched the quagmire in Juneau (and even a middle school in Wasilla for that matter) as politicians slug it out over the PFD — with no side making an inch of progress. Important bills are left unresolved; and the pressing needs of Alaskans are ignored.

Enough is enough. Will there be some uncertainty ahead? Yes. That was true when the Permanent Fund was first constitutionalized before its purpose had been decided. We figured it out then, and we’ll figure it out again. The important thing is that we end the crippling paralysis and move forward together.

With the 50-50 plan and its bipartisan support, we are closer than ever to closing out this tiresome chapter in our state’s history and getting the PFD back into the hands of Alaskans. The question is, who are we going to listen to: the failed leaders who got us here or the Alaskans working to set aside their differences and move our state into the future.

I know which side I will be on, and I encourage you to join me in calling your legislators and asking them to support the 50-50 plan.

Matt Steele is a real estate associate broker and certified flight instructor from Wasilla, Alaska.

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