That’s $22 more than Alaska Gov. Bill Walker estimated the 2016 Permanent Fund Dividend would be for each eligible resident back in June when he vetoed half of the traditional formula used to calculate the yearly payment from Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation earnings. Without Walker’s veto, eligible Alaskans would receive $2052 this year, Walker said on Fri., Sept. 23, as he made the annual announcement via a video with a Palmer eighth grader. Walker defended the move to eliminate $666 million from being transferred which essentially cut PFD checks in half as necessary for fixing the state’s fiscal crisis.
“We have been drawing down on our savings at a rate of $12 million a day. If we do not fix Alaska’s budget soon, we will have burned through the money available for future dividend checks,” Walker said. “The veto ensures the money will remain in the fund so checks will be available to future generations of Alaskans.”Not everyone agrees with Walker.
Not everyone agrees with Walker.
In talking with state officials representing the Chugiak-Eagle River area regarding the recent lawsuit filed by state Senator Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, challenging Walker’s veto, opposition to Walker using his veto power in such manner is clear. “As we saw with his unilateral expansion of Medicaid, this governor isn’t shy about pushing his executive authority to the limits, so it’s no surprise he pushed his veto power to halve the Permanent Fund dividend,” state Representative Dan Saddler, R-Eagle River, said. “Many Alaskans have already said it was bad public policy, and even one of his Democratic allies in the Legislature says it was illegal, too. If Gov. Walker and the Democrats had been more willing to cut the budget before trying to collect more revenue, this lawsuit might not have been necessary.”
Rep. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River also stated opposition to the Gov.’s veto, saying doing such is not the appropriate way to change state funding formulas.“The permanent fund dividend has a specific formula in state statute. The formula has been
“The permanent fund dividend has a specific formula in state statute. The formula has been followed for decades so there is equitable distribution of the royalties from our resources to Alaskans. The dividend was not intended to be repealed/recalculated by the Executive branch with a single stroke of one man’s hands – in this case Governor Walker,” Reinbold said. “The only way the dividend should be changed is by the will of the people or via a change in state statute in the legislative branch. I do not support the Governor taking 660 million dollars out of the private sectors hands without any input from the people or the legislative branch.”
Reinbold said she supports Wielechowski’s lawsuit as a means for a review the legality of Walker’s veto. The fact that Rick Halford, an Eagle River resident who retired in 2003 from 25 years in the state Legislature and helped to craft the current PFD distribution formula, joins Wielechowski speaks volumes for Reinbold.
“I respect Senator Rick Halford and appreciate his willingness to challenge the Governor’s actions,” Reinbold said. “I support legal review by the courts.” So does state Sen. Anna MacKinnon who said, “It’s an important issue that affects all Alaskans. Regardless of which way the courts decide, it will be good to have a ruling on the legality of the
veto.” Yet MacKinnon also sees the lawsuit could be born of a motive to please voters. “With the possibility that a ruling could come out just prior to the election, it’s hard to discount the view expressed by some that the timing of the lawsuit is politically motivated,” MacKinnon added.
That was Walker’s response to the lawsuit.
“I am disappointed that an incumbent legislator who failed to work towards a solution to our fiscal crisis has decided instead to pursue this lawsuit eight weeks prior to his re-election bid,” Walker said in a statement on Twitter in responding to the lawsuit.”
As of ECHO deadline, a date for the lawsuit to be heard had not been set by the Third Judicial
District. A case number was assigned.
PFD checks eligible for direct deposit are scheduled for Thurs., Oct. 6. Read Gov. Walker’s response to the PFD lawsuit at his Twitter page: twitter.com/AkGovBillWalker.
Top Photo by James Brooks