Senators push permanent fund amendment

Posted: Sunday, February 13, 2000

The chair and vice-chair of the Senate State Affairs Committee were in Kenai Friday to talk about a proposed constitutional amendment to modify how the Alaska Permanent Fund may be altered.

Sens. Jerry Ward, R-Anchorage, and Lyda Green, R-Matanuska-Susitna, presented Senate Joint Resolution 35 to approximately 20 people at Kenai's Legislative Information Office Friday afternoon.

Green, in the body of the resolution, characterizes it as "an amendment to guarantee the permanent fund dividend, to provide for inflation proofing, and to require a vote of the people before changing the statutory formula for distribution that existed on January 1, 2000."

Green said although the vast majority of people in the state -- including lawmakers -- believe a change to the dividend must pass a popular vote before being enacted, it is not.

"We've been convinced we're going to be able to vote on this before anything can be changed in the permanent fund dividend," she said. "That's not true."

Green said the resolution is the result of efforts to require such a vote for any change.

"In trying to find a very simple way to give the people some assurance that there are people in the Legislature that want to protect the dividend, this is the simplest form," she said.

"We're changing nothing except the standard to change it."

According to Green, the program still could be changed in the future, it just would be a bit more difficult and the public would have to approve.

"Right now, it's my opinion," she said, "that the attitude of the people is they will not allow any use of the earnings from the permanent fund because there is a lack of confidence it will stop at needed spending."

Ward said with the fund taken out of reach, the Legislature would focus on other ways to cut spending or fund programs.

"I don't want to take the people's money and spend it without their consent," he said. "One of the most precious things in the world is spending other people's money. It's intoxicating. It's time to make some hard decisions. The whole government is sinking into the ground because people are afraid to prioritize. We're 600,000 people. We shouldn't be spending this amount of money."

Green said the next step for the resolution is committee hearings. She encouraged people to call Sen. John Torgerson, R-Kasilof, to request he schedule it for the Finance Committee, which he co-chairs.

"That's what we want to do, is just get it hearings," she said.

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