Commercials a tough sell in Legislature

Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. asks state for $300,00 for campaign to push POMV

Posted: Thursday, February 19, 2004

Radio and television ads promoting a new method of managing the Alaska Permanent Fund could have a tough time getting funding from the Legislature, according to some lawmakers on the House Finance Committee.

On Wednesday, the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., which manages the $28 billion account, asked the state for $300,000 to help its campaign to push the percent of market value (POMV) plan for managing the fund.

That plan inflation-proofs the fund and limits the annual payout to 5 percent of the total value of the fund. Fund trustees say this will provide a stable, predictable dividend payout to state residents.

Finance Committee member Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, questioned the funding request because groups who oppose POMV would not have access to the same campaign dollars.

"I understand the need to try to educate the people," Meyer said. "The problem, though, is not everybody likes POMV. We've raised kind of a fairness issue as to whether or not we should be using public funds to advocate this position, knowing that there is another group out there with an opposing position that has to raise private funds."

POMV alone would not change the amount of permanent fund dividend checks, but some in the Legislature are advocating using a portion of the 5 percent to help cover the state's chronic budget shortfall.

Adoption of the POMV plan would require an amendment to the state constitution. That means two-thirds of lawmakers in the state House and Senate would have to approve the proposal. Then voters would get to decide in the next election whether to adopt the plan.

The Permanent Fund Corp. also asked lawmakers to approve a change in state law allowing it to advocate in favor of POMV in the ads, rather than just educating the public.

"If the resolution passes the Legislature, the real issue of advocacy comes when an initiative is going to be on the ballot," said Bob Bartholomew, chief operating officer for the Permanent Fund Corp. "Then the rules change where we no longer have the ability to advocate the public or the Legislature."

The Permanent Fund Corp. could spend up to $1.4 million on the ads, Bartholomew said. That would require additional funding requests in this year's budget.

The Finance Committee did not vote Wednesday on the fast-track appropriations bill, but committee co-chairman John Harris, R-Valdez, said it could revisit the bill as early as next week.

Harris said he likely would not support the funding request.

"I don't think we ought to be out there using permanent fund money advocating for something we haven't passed," Harris said after the meeting. "They could do it with private funds or find other ways."

Harris said he might support the request if the advertisements were purely educational and did not advocate for one plan over another.

Committee member Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, said he has "serious reservations" about providing money to a government entity to lobby the Legislature.

• Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at timothy.inklebarger@juneauempire.com.



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