Dermot Cole

Dermot Cole





You may have seen this bogus document that claims to stake a legal claim to thousands of dollars in state money.

Don’t waste money on a stamp sending it to legislators, including Rep. Mike Prax, who is encouraging this con game. 

There is no legal claim to be staked for back dividends. The state doesn’t owe you a dime. You’ll have better luck in the offers of free cash that await you in your spam folder.

Dressing up a lame political argument with a few statutes to try to create a veneer that this is founded in law will only fool the most gullible. This is aimed at those who know nothing about how state law and the budget process really works.

The so-called PFD Defenders and the so-called Interior Patriots haven’t gone to court with this campaign because even they know it’s 100 percent claptrap. If you think otherwise, take your case to court and file a lawsuit over the alleged “debt.”

“I was eligible and should have received the following payments”  and “I am owed the unpaid balance, plus the earnings on that sum,” and “please mail the check to my mailing address” is textbook whining.

You are not owed the unpaid balance.

Alaskans established the Permanent Fund in 1976 by a constitutional amendment that said the principal would be invested and the Alaska Legislature would decide how to spend the earnings. That remains true today.

Most of the people who live in Alaska today were not here in 1976 and don’t know the circumstances of the vote and the reason the measure was popular. It was approved by a two-to-one margin.

I voted for the amendment, thinking the fund would provide a source of money for the state when the oil ran out. Those who claim the amendment created the dividend don’t know what they are talking about.

The dividend came along in 1980, the product of the unexpected immediate flood of oil income that followed the revolution in Iran. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected the 1980 law and the Legislature revised it in 1982. The Legislature has always held the power to appropriate money for specific programs, including the dividend.

The entire discussion about dividends is premised on the false assumption that the only program of importance to Alaskans is the dividend. Gov. Mike Dunleavy, like many before him, sees the dividend as his ticket to reelection, but he refuses to say what state programs he would cut to pay for larger dividends.  His grandstanding on the dividend is deceptive at heart because of this omission.

 

In the decades ahead, Alaskans will wonder why more of the giant nonrenewable oil bonanza from the North Slope was not set aside. The choice right now is whether Alaskans can restrain their appetite.

Dunleavy and others claiming that $81 billion is an excellent reason to withdraw billions more in the years ahead are ignoring the lessons of history and abandoning the pretense of  prudent management.

The governor and his supporters claim otherwise, but they are focused entirely on the next election, not on the next generation or those to follow. Anyone looking out for the long term has to realize that putting more money aside now, and resisting immediate gratification, is the only sensible choice.

If the Permanent Fund is allowed to grow to $100 billion or more, it would allow Alaskans to maintain a healthy level of state services and keep state taxes low. That is the conservative choice for Alaska. What Dunleavy and right-wing Republicans are promoting is reckless.

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