Faced with impasse and indecision over the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend, the Legislature created a bicameral working group to come up with suggestions for how to break the gridlock and reach a politically durable plan for the future of the PFD.
The eight-member group will hold its first major meeting in Anchorage on Wednesday and it’ll be kicking things off with a history lesson running from statehood to modern day.
Working group chairs Sen. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, and Rep. Jennifer Johnston, R-Anchorage, both have stressed through the first two organizational meetings that having a full picture and understanding of the historical record is important to understanding the full picture and purpose of the fund. The working group has already surfaced historical documents, like statements from the 1999 special election on the permanent fund dividend.
Bishop recognized that Gov. Jay Hammond’s words have frequently been used as a defense of the permanent fund dividend and the historical formula, but he said many of the quotes and references only tell a small part of the picture.
“It’s good to read and you’re going to read through this stuff and go, ‘We just had this conversation yesterday.’ No, they had it in 1999. It’s the same conversation,” Bishop said. “When I tell a story, I might not want to tell you the last two sentences if I’m trying to sell something. But in this case, you’re going to talk about Gov. Hammond, but then you’re going to read the rest of what Gov. Hammond said. This is in the documents, so you have a true picture of what was said. The rest of the story, as they say.”
The agenda for Wednesday’s meeting includes:
- The Alaska Statehood Act
- The 1976 Alaska Permanent Fund Constitutional Amendment
- Alaska’s First Permanent Fund Dividend and the Zobel Cases
- Alaska Permanent Fund Statutes
- Wielechowski v. Alaska
The meeting is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. at the Anchorage Legislative Information Office and will run through 6 p.m. It will be broadcast live on akl.tv.
A second meeting is expected the following week where members of the committee will present their analysis of what various sizes of the dividend will mean for the future of the fund, the state’s financial picture, the individual Alaskan’s financial picture and the overall economy.
The working group doesn’t have a deadline for when it needs to come up with recommendations for the dividend, but the Legislature is due back in a special session on July 8. House minority Republicans have refused to vote to fund the full capital budget without first securing a $3,000 PFD. The state needs that budget funded by late July or else the state risks losing out on nearly $1 billion in federal highway funding altogether.