This year the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend will make slightly more than 600,000 Alaskans $1,654 richer.
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The checks are a huge boost to local economies. Alaskans use them for everything from helping make ends meet, to assisting in paying for college educations, to splurging on a few wants, instead of needs.
As fortunate as Alaskans are to receive their dividends, it's hard not to wonder at this time every year whether some of that money might be better spent paying for things like maintaining roads and schools and putting more money into classrooms to reduce class sizes, increase program offerings and ensure Alaska's young people are prepared for the future.
Earlier this week, the total value of the fund stood a more than $39 billion. Billion. During the last fiscal year, the fund earned $622,000 an hour. Those numbers are compelling reminders that Alaska is not poor by any stretch of the imagination.
The forward-thinking Alaskans who created the permanent fund and the dividend program didn't intend for those great programs to be protected at any cost while the quality of life deteriorated throughout Alaska.
Just as Alaskans will look for the wisest and best use of their dividend checks, they should urge legislators to consider the wisest and best use of permanent fund earnings. Has the time come to use a portion of those earnings to help pay for some of the government services that Alaskans deserve and expect?
Our answer is yes, a thousand times, yes.