This editorial first appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:
The state Senate gets it.
Fuel prices are out of this world in Alaska, and for the time being, this is where we live. If we want to keep on living, we need to be able to pay our fuel bills.
While the prices are high in our communities, the state is making money — $1.2 billion more than it expected. It is making this money because Alaskans pay more for fuel.
It only makes sense in this situation that the state reduce the financial strain on Alaskans. We help each other when we can; it might not always be that we can assist. But it won’t mean we won’t try.
The Senate passed a bill that would give every adult recipient of the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend this fall a voucher to help pay for fuel.
This is expected to be a fix for this year; with prices what they are, we’ll figure out next year later. But the bill also calls on Gov. Sean Parnell to look at other ways to assist Alaskans.
The bill is expected to cost between $328 million and $465 million. Looking at the revenue above what the state anticipated, that is available two or three times over.
This has been done once before. Alaskans appreciated it at the time. It hasn’t been done in the past couple of years, however, and Alaskans didn’t act as if they weren’t getting a voucher they were owed and weren’t paid. We simply were thankful the state helped when it had the funds to do so.
The high fuel costs affect all Alaskans. Certainly, the northern-most villages where prices are upward of $6 per gallon suffer the most, but in the southern cities like Ketchikan, there has been a run on electrical heaters as residents try to reduce their home-fuel consumption.
Whether poor or wealthy, everyone’s home-heating fuel and automobile gasoline prices are high. Some might be able to bear it better than others, but no one has escaped the high cost of energy.
If the energy voucher were to be given to one Alaskan and not another, it would be difficult to draw the line. An individual with an annual income of $30,000 might receive the voucher, while a couple with a combined income of $50,000 and raising three children might not.
The best way to deal with the vouchers is as the Senate laid out — help all Alaska households. Homes with two adults often also house children. Their fuel consumption increases with each one.
It is best to provide for all.
The bill is bound for the House before it can be sent to Parnell for his signature.