On April 2, the Juneau Empire ran the results of its "What do you think?" poll on the Opinion page.
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The poll asked readers, "Do you think the state should tap into the permanent fund to pay for roads, bridges and other capital projects?"
Unfortunately, the Empire does a continuous disservice to its readers by not differentiating between the principal of the fund, which totals $30 billion, and the realized earnings of the permanent fund, with a current value of $3.4 billion.
The principal of the permanent fund is protected under Article IX, Section 15 of the state constitution and accessible only by a general election vote by the people of Alaska. On the other hand, the permanent fund earnings are simply that: The earnings of the investments of the permanent fund. As envisioned by the creators of this valuable state asset a generation ago, the fund's earnings are available to the people of Alaska by a simple majority vote of the Legislature. When you ask the question about spending the permanent fund, you need to be clear whether you are talking about the permanent fund, which is protected by the constitution, or the earnings, which are controlled by a majority of the people through their elected representatives.
The Empire should know better, and I think it does.
Sen. Gary Wilken, District E