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Cutting dividends for college students makes little sense

Posted: Wednesday, April 07, 2004

There is no logic in Paul Seaton's proposal to put a hold on college students' permanent fund dividends while they attend school Outside. Mr. Seaton proposes holding up these Alaska residents' PFD until after they finish school and they return to Alaska and live here again for a year. Even a cursory examination of this proposal shows that it is fatally flawed.

Mr. Seaton states he is acting to prevent fraud. Well, if there really is fraud involved getting PFDs by college students, why not prosecute the defrauding students. If Mr. Seaton has any information at all concerning this type of fraud, he should turn it over to the Department of Law, and he should also make it public. Present Alaska law provides strict penalties for PFD fraud, these include: the loss of all future dividends, requiring the paying back all dividends paid to date and a fine of up to $5,000.

The mentality of prosecuting an entire group of people for the transgressions, real or imagined, of a few is absurd. If any legislator has ever abused per diem, out-of-sessions "official" expenses, should we eliminate this compensation for all legislators?

Mr. Seaton's ill-conceived bill pits Alaskans against each other for no purpose. By Mr. Seaton's own word, he has introduced this bill because he has "heard" that a lot of college students are committing fraud by getting a PFD check. One would think that the Legislature should act upon "fact" not rumor.

Mr. Seaton also claims to be trying to stem the "brain drain" by encouraging college students to return to the state of Alaska after college. In a very shortsighted way, he is correct about this if legitimate students who are Alaska residents have their PFD cut off, they may be returning to Alaska sooner than they planned. Many of these students can't afford college without the PFD.

Has my daughter any less claim to Alaska wealth then Mr. Seaton? She was born and raised in Alaska while he is, or was, a New Englander, I believe. My daughter is attending Southern Oregon University. She returns home each Christ-mas break and works. She is also here, in Homer, working each summer. She will graduate next year and then enroll in the University of Alaska hoping to earn a master's degree in special education teaching. Why should her PFD be "lock boxed" until Mr. Seaton decides how and when she spends it? So far, she has spent it on her education.

By the same twisted logic, why should she be able to pay resident tuition at the University of Alaska why not charge her nonresident tuition and if she stays here for a year or so, then we can refund her overpayment. Same logic, same flaw.

Here's an idea. Why not make legislators pay their own expenses, both living and official, and then let the public vote each year as to whether they are reimbursed or not?

When Mr. Seaton and my daughter both signed their PFD application, they both certified that: 1. I am now and intend to remain an Alaska resident indefinitely; 2. I was an Alaska resident for all of 2003; and 3. I haven't claimed residency in another state.

I deeply resent Mr. Seaton's implication that he tells the truth and my daughter is maybe lying. I am very disappointed in legislators who preach less government interference in our lives and then try to control every aspect of it.

The 6,000-plus Alaska students who attend school Outside should not be punished for the whim of a legislator. These students are trying to better themselves and deserve Alaska's support, not interference.

In summary, a person is either a resident or they're not if they are, and they fulfill all the PFD residency requirements, they are entitled to the full benefit of residency. This is only basic fairness.

Perhaps the state could save more by curtailing all assistance to, say, oh, the fishing industry, Mr. Seaton.

Ron Drathman, Homer



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