Alaska Editorial: PFD changes

This editorial first appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:

When it comes to the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend, Alaskans are all ears.

Now hear this.

The state Legislature changed the PFD rules in its most recent session, and key among them was strengthening the guidelines for dividend recipients living out of state. To that, we say, amen.

House Bill 52 will better accommodate Alaska members of the U.S. armed forces, allowing them to be out of the state during their service without penalty. Sometimes, that means extended absences of 5, 10 or even more years.

HB52 supports the Permanent Fund Division’s view that after a five-year absence someone presumably has no intent of returning to Alaska. But when it comes to the military that can be unavoidable.

Right now absences need only be supported by documents. In the future, beginning with year six, out-of-state PFD applicants will be required to provide convincing evidence to the division of an intent to return to Alaska. Division staff will evaluate, using that evidence, whether the intent is sincere. For Alaskans in the armed forces that will be evidence easy to come by. It also is likely to identify those who are citizens of another state or country.

The Permanent Fund Division evaluates about 1,300 perm fund applications each year to determine whether an intent to return to Alaska exists. It pays dividends to about 67 percent and rules about 33 percent ineligible. The number ruled ineligible is expected to increase with implementation of HB52.

This proposed law, which now only requires the governor’s signature to take effect, will help stop non-Alaskans from enjoying the benefits of the perm fund. It will help to preserve the fund as it was intended for Alaskans while accommodating Alaskans in service to our country.

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