The formula for calculating the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend would be protected in the state constitution under a plan proposed by House and Senate Democrats.
They’re worried about the immediately impact of a bill to reduce oil taxes. While Republicans say the new tax regime would prompt more investment, state revenue would decline dramatically in the first few years. Democrats worry that future legislatures would dip into the Permanent Fund to balance the budget and start cutting into the dividend.
They’ve introduced resolutions in the House and Senate to place the state PFD statute into the constitution. Alaska’s Permanent Fund savings account is already enshrined in the constitution.
During a news conference Wednesday, Anchorage Democratic Senator Bill Wielechowski recalled that voters in the past have rejected using the Permanent Fund to help pay for state services.
“There was a vote put to the people years ago on taking money out of the Permanent Fund and the people said overwhelmingly ‘no’. So what this bill would do is put it to a vote of the people, enshrining the Permanent Fund Dividend in the constitution – the payment of it. And I think that’s good public policy. The oil resource is something that is supposed to be available for our children, our grandchildren. This is the way you protect it and make sure that happens,” Wielechowski said.
The resolutions are SJR13 in the Senate and HJR17 in the House. The proposal also requires that future dividends be the same or greater than in current law.
If approved by a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate, the constitutional amendment would appear on the next statewide election ballot.