Reader: Again, don't touch permanent fund

Posted: Thursday, April 21, 2005

I am still in bit of a shock. I can only assume that a majority of the Alaska State Senate must have an electoral death wish. How many ran with a "I will never touch your permanent fund."

Pledge? Thank God Gov. Frank Murkowski made a pledge to give the people a vote, and as his veto has shown, his word is not based on double talk.

Oh, I know school construction is a, no doubt, worthy goal, but is it a goal you would sacrifice your word and thus your honor for? I know we already use some permanent fund earnings. Take, for instance, the millions we use to reimburse the federal government so that many on welfare can continue to draw benefits while still getting a dividend.

The fact that the dividend goes to some who might not be truly entitled is not an excuse to raid the earnings of the people's savings account. If those who want a boom now or plan on retiring to warmer climes later in their life can talk their fellow citizens into giving up all or part of their dividend, then have at it. I say all, for if you re-elect those who steal from you now, you have to know another worthwhile project will come along next year.

The price of oil seems to go ever up, and now the state coffers overflow. The budget is not only balanced but in surplus. The permanent fund is but one-twelfth of the oil money we have received. Eighty percent of the money the state gets each year from oil goes directly into our annual budget.

I know there are some in the Legislature who come from fat cat districts who, deep in their heart, do not feel the great unwashed can spend their money as well as the upper class can. But just look at the permanent fund as one of Alaska's economic engines, such as mining, fishing, logging or government employment, and then stop and think of the one that has the largest percentage of cash that stays in Alaska.

A constitutional amendment that allowed up to 5 percent of the value of the fund to be used of the dividend and provided for the Legislature on an annual basis to assess each and every dividend up to 40 percent for education has a chance of passage.

Of course, this would make every recipient a major taxpayer. It might even make them a little proud, but an end run that takes their money and tries to tell them it is not their money will never wash.

At a time when high oil has given the state more money than its fondest dreams, while at the same time leaving the ordinary household with a heating bill twice the size of last year, it does not seem to me to be the time to reach for people's money. To freeze the dividend at a fixed amount when prices are going up is not worthy of consideration.

Clem Tillion, Halibut Cove



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