Safeguard Alaska's Permanent Fund

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, January 25, 2004

Beware of political shell games and beware of any politician seeking access to Alaska's public treasure. Alaska's Permanent Fund is an irresistible target for politicians lacking the moral fiber and courage to tackle our state's fiscal needs in an honest and forthright manner. That seems especially true for the current majority whose credos appear to be "a fee isn't a tax; taking money from someone isn't a tax; the poor don't count; corporations over people; hew to the party line or be punished; or, what conflict of interest?"

The majority seems hell-bent on penalizing the poor, the very young, the very old and disadvantaged people of our great state while rewarding the better-offs and corporations.

The Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend is the most enlightened idea in government anywhere, providing all citizens of this state, rich and poor alike, an equal share of the benefits from our mineral resources. The payment of dividends each fall always provides a boon to our citizens and our state with a hearty economic shot in the arm.

As things now stand, the state is under no statutory obligation to pay dividends to citizens from the fund. The Murkowski administration is zealously promoting a constitutional amendment limiting annual withdrawals from the fund to 5 percent of market value, but says nothing about how much of that amount will go toward citizens' dividends, if any. Only public opinion and outrage now prevents legislators from spending the money for state budgetary needs. All past attempts have met ferocious public objection. And for good reason. The public instinctively knows that once the politicians take control of the fund, it will ultimately be spent and gone forever.

If there is going to be a constitutional amendment on this matter, let's be sure that it enshrines the right of Alaska's citizens to the Permanent Fund dividend forevermore. We must demand that our Legislature makes sure that Alaska's budgetary needs are met through fair and honest revenue raising measures, and keep their itchy-twitchy-sticky fingers off the Permanent Fund.

Erik Lie-Nielsen


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