Alaska's infrastructure would benefit from tapping the PFD

Letter to the editor

Posted: Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I recently read two news articles that contradict each other in the extremist of terms. In the first article, the governor is pursuing a $150 million in cuts. In the second article, the Alaska Permanent Fund's unaudited value surpassed $37 billion for the first time on Jan. 12 and is making, on average, $1 billion per quarter. I reverted back to basic eighth grade math and came to the conclusion that the permanent fund would be at $41 billion this time next year. This leads me to ask what reasonable excuse is there not to tap the permanent fund for $1B annually. Which would leave the principal at $40 billion.

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Let's take a look at the possibilities on a statewide basis. The governor could set aside $150 million rather than looking for cuts. The University of Alaska could reconsider the seven percent tuition increase that would take effect in the fall of 2007. The average state funding for each student K-12 in 2006 was $11,000 per student. How would the education system be affected if the state increased this funding by $1,000 to $2,000 per student. The $33.7 million for the Longevity Bonus would be "chump change." The state wouldn't have to do any fancy financing to fund the mega-prison. The list could go on and on: ferries', roads, alcoholism, state retirement fund, etc.

Now, let's take a look at the local level. How would our harbor fees be affected if the state contributed $2 million to $3 million on a annual basis? How would our property taxes be affected if the state contributed an additional $5 million to $10 million for maintenance or construction of our new or existing schools annually? How would our utility bills be affected if the state contributed $3 million to $5 million for our water and sewage system annually? Many of the state workers are currently in bargaining and are looking for wage increases. Could this change the states attitude in favor of a wage increase? I see the lazy river pool park becoming a reality.

Am I advocating for the irresponsible, unreasonable or indiscriminate spending of these funds? Of course not, just the opposite. We need to start investing in the infrastructure of this state. We need to get this money working for us. I don't want to read a set of headlines that reads "Alaska: The richest, poorest state in the nation." It's time to trim some fat off the sacred cow.

Bill Bonn


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