Residents speak out against state use of dividend

Alaskans, Just Say No hopes video of meeting will win over lawmakers

Posted: Monday, March 15, 2004

FAIRBANKS - An organization opposed to using any portion of the Alaska Permanent Fund to close the state's chronic budget deficit held a town meeting here.

Alaskans, Just Say No is gathering video footage from meetings such as the one in Fairbanks which was attended by about 50 people.

Eddie Burke, state chairman of the group, hopes the video persuades legislators to raise taxes to industry and cut government before taxing Alaska residents or using money from permanent fund earnings.

Gov. Frank Murkowski has asked lawmakers to consider putting a constitutional amendment before voters in November to use a portion of the fund for state government.

Murkowski convened a Conference of Alaskans last month in which 55 delegates recommended using a portion of the permanent fund to help close the state's chronic budget shortfall.

The Legislature is expected to begin considering legislation today.

Permanent fund earnings are now spent on dividends and reinvested into the $28 billion fund. A group of Fairbanks area residents said it should remain that way.

"If you let them get their foot, their hand in the permanent fund it will be blown." said Don Ridinger, a retired state employee. "It will be gone."

Retired Teamster Monte Schade said he's suspicious of those who link using permanent fund money for government with funding for the state's education system.

"Keep an eye on those with a forked tongue speaking to you as if they are your friend, speaking to you about education," Schade said.

Pharmacist Jerry Brown said the only acceptable use for permanent fund money is for capital projects, such as railroad expansion or a natural gas pipeline.

Alaskans, Just Say No is corralling public opposition to tapping permanent fund earnings to balance the state's budget. Burke also led an effort to defeat the 1999 permanent fund advisory vote.

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