Payoff plan killed

No $25K check

Posted: Tuesday, April 18, 2000

The $25,000 dream has faded.

Sen. Jerry Mackie has given up hope of getting the Senate votes needed to turn half of the Alaska Permanent Fund into dividend checks - $25,000 each - for every Alaskan.

``For all practical purposes, it probably is (dead),'' the Craig Republican said today. ``I don't have the votes.''

He said part of the problem getting support for the measure has little to do with the plan itself. Some lawmakers, he said, don't want to rile up their constituents by going on record on the plan, which most Alaskans have an opinion about.

``There are a lot of people who like it and a lot of people who don't,'' Mackie said. ``All I've asked for is to let the people vote.''

His measure would have needed a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate and win approval by Alaska voters to be implemented.

Under Mackie's proposal, half of the $27 billion oil-wealth savings account would be spread around the state in a final dividend mailing. Then, the dividend program would end.

The remaining fund money would have become an interest-earning engine to fund state government.

Mackie said the remaining fund would have generated enough to fill the state's fiscal gap. Also, he said, it would have taken advantage of the money the state currently has in its various savings accounts. He said it'll be harder to develop a long-term plan for the state when those accounts are bare. Unfortunately, he said, that'll probably have to happen before the Legislature gets up the gumption to put together a plan.

Bob King, spokesman for Gov. Tony Knowles, said the plan raised some serious concerns about taxes and potential economic and social impacts. But it also raised awareness about the state's fiscal gap - the difference between how much money the state raises and spends.

``The Legislature has not come up with a plan to deal with the state's long-term financial future,'' said King. ``The Mackie plan itself served its purpose of bringing the issue to the forefront and sparking some ingenious ideas, some new ways to approach the problem.

``Unfortunately, that alone wasn't enough.''

Sen. Sean Parnell, an Anchorage Republican and co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said he wanted to keep talking about Alaska's fiscal future.

``I was willing to move it from committee, simply because I thought the conversation should continue,'' he said.

Asked what the Mackie proposal had been worth, Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, an Anchorage Democrat, said it had value.

``It was worth a lot,'' he said. ``$25,000.''

Rep. John Davies, a Fairbanks Democrat, backed another fiscal plan, which also got committee hearings, but didn't get far in the Legislature.

``His plan, nor any other plan, got serious consideration,'' Davies said. ``That is the sad thing. The do-nothing Legislature has accomplished its mission.''

Parnell said there was a plan that was going to pass the Legislature.

``It's called our capital budget and our operating budget and the direction we're going with a smaller government.

``People have different opinions of what a long-range plan is.''

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