ANCHORAGE - Two Democratic legislators have signed on with the group opposed to spending Alaska Permanent Fund earnings for state government.
Reps. Harry Crawford and Eric Croft, both Anchorage Democrats, signed on as honorary chairmen of Alaskans, Just Say No.
The announcement came less than a week before the convening of Gov. Frank Murkowski's "Conference of Alaskans," 55 residents who will meet in Fairbanks to debate four questions he picked, including whether a portion of permanent fund earnings should be used to help pay costs of state government.
Using fund earnings for state government would lower the amount paid to Alaskans in permanent fund dividend checks. The checks have been issued annually since 1982, ranging from $331 to nearly $1,964 in 2000.
Alaskans, Just Say No opposes spending fund earnings at this time and contends that other means of closing Alaska's chronic gap between earnings and spending should be explored first.
The group has members from opposite ends of the political spectrum. State Rep. Vic Kohring, a Wasilla Republican, considered one of the Legislature's staunchest fiscal conservatives, is an honorary co-chairman, as is former state Sen. Jerry Ward, a Republican, and Jim Sykes, a founding member of Alaska's Green Party and a candidate for U.S. Senate.
"This is a diverse group of Alaskans," Croft said. "The one thing that we all agree on is that the people's dividend should stay in the people's pocket, not taken for government."
Croft said Alaskans, Just Say No sometimes has been disregarded by the media, but its members may have a better feel for protecting the real interests of Alaskans than the Legislature.
"Too many people in the Legislature confuse special interests with the people's interests," Croft said.
Croft and Crawford said that instead of taking money from the dividend, the state should urge development of Alaska's natural resources and get a fair share from the sale of oil resources at the current high prices.
"We have two things we want to do - build a (natural) gas pipeline and protect the permanent fund dividend, and Alaskans, Just Say No is fighting to do those things," Crawford said.
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