Sept 15, 1999
|Save Your PFD
Sept 14, 1999
for YES vote
Give Alaskans the fund
It seems our legislators have been unable to make the tough decisions mentioned by House Speaker Brian Porter without a special election. Porter says a majority vote is all that is needed to allow the legislators to access Permanent Fund earnings. Then why are we spending $150,000 for this election? Apparently they correctly assumed it would be political suicide to access the fund earnings without voter approval. We are paying these elected officials to represent us and make these decisions. Are we getting our money's worth?
How about an initiative petition? We could vote to give the Legislature their billion dollars this year, then disburse the remaining funds, paying every man, woman and child approximately $50,000, then we could allow the state full usage of all future royalties and revenue to fund a bloated state government. Let's get the petition started.
We are told that there is a budget deficit of $1.2 billion, yet spending on nonessential projects continues apace.
There has been absolutely no cutback in nonessential road works all across the state. Just look at the International Airport Road and the Minnesota Drive overpass construction, and look at the Northwood Road pipe-laying project. If we are short of money to the tune of $1.2 billion, why are we building the road to Whittier now? Why have these and other nonessential projects not been scrapped or put on hold until funds are available?
If the state is suffering such a huge deficit, why are new school building projects not being put on hold and why are extra teachers being hired to reduce class sizes if we cannot afford to pay them? Instead of hiring, we need to be firing - yes, downsizing is the business terminology; it sounds so much better.
However, with gas prices now rising above $1.25 per gallon at the pumps and crude oil above $18 per barrel and the Budget Reserve account holding a surplus of more than $3.5 billion, enough for three years of budget deficits of the current size, now is not the time to hit the panic button and start to raid the Permanent Fund. Rather, concentrate on maintaining an atmosphere of competition among the oil companies and not allow them to buy out their competition so they can control both production and prices. Alaskans would be totally at their mercy.
John J. Kiernan
I have only lived in Alaska for three years. This year, I'll receive my first Permanent Fund dividend check. I know there are a lot of people who depend on getting the PFD every year, not because they are greedy, but because they truly need it.
Every day I read the paper and I try to keep up to date on all the news, and sometimes it simply amazes me how much politics, no matter where you live, is all alike!
I have one concern, though. Alaska's budget is in the red, so now in September, we the citizens of Alaska must vote on whether we should let our government take the PFD to fill the gap in the budget. You will have a choice of yes or no. The "Yes" campaign has raised over $265,000. The "No" side has raised $2,000. How much will each side raise to campaign its side? We won't know until it's over, but I'm sure it will be a lot more than what they have now.
If you have raised $265,000 for the campaign now, why not just quit while you are ahead and start raising money for the budget deficit? Stop spending the money campaigning your point of view. Spending that much money on a campaign (on which we all know what the outcome will be) is totally ridiculous.
Mary E. Thorpe
On Friday, Aug. 6, I read Mike Doogan's column with incredulous glee, and midway through checked the heading to make sure that it was written by Mike Doogan and not Tuckerman Babcock, who could just as easily have written every word.
Whoever wrote it, I agree with every word, and hope the people of Alaska will never give away their dividend. Remember, if you give away part of it, you open the door and may end up losing all of it. This state belongs to our children - don't give it away, not lump sum, not piece by piece.
And when Mike Doogan gets it right and agrees with Tuckerman Babcock on an issue that counts, we ought to pay close attention!
Meg J. Minckler
We're getting close to the point where we can rein government in. Vote no on the Permanent Fund issue and you'll set the stage for the future.
State government has benefited from the bounty the oil industry has provided the last few years, but now the cows are coming to the barn. We were content to allow government to run amuck with the flush of oil money because it didn't hurt. Now they want you to support what they've created by giving up part of your dividend. We've got them by the short hairs if you have the guts to vote no.
Yes, they'll try to institute a tax of some sort. You'll be told the sky is falling and you're hurting the kids in school. But ask yourself if in the absence of the money the oil industry provides you would be willing to support the level of government we now have, i.e., total tax support. If you would, the tax rate would exceed the per capita rate anywhere in the other 49 states.
If we do need to give the government money, the dividend solution is not equitable. Better we allow an income tax, which will tap the higher earners and absentee workers (out of state) and will serve to mitigate our federal taxes, or we institute a sales tax, which will at least tap the tourist industry.
Moreover, if we're going to pony up money, hopefully we'll keep a closer eye on what government does, because it can hurt now.
You can't give government enough, folks. Take an interest. It's important.
William T. (Bill) Ahrens
Budget can be reduced
Regarding this budget mess: To all of you who did not read the letter from M.G. Van Tassel of Homer in the Aug. 19 Daily News, please do so. If you do not have time, let me quote the three things he mentioned to reduce the budget:
As if that is not enough, read the letter by Toni Utt in the Friday, Aug. 20, Frontiersman.
All of them I agree with 1 million percent, plus I add, if they would follow the way Vic Kohring lives, talks and above all does, there would be no budget problem. We cannot live beyond what we bring in. That is exactly what our "great spenders" do. Solution: "Remove the supply, there will be no demand."
Don't enrich politicians Here's what will happen if the majority votes yes on Sept. 14:
James H. Grant
Don't fall for 'yes' baloney
Vote "no" on the PFD issue. Don't fall for the baloney put out by the Yes committee. The PFD issues are becoming clouded. The Yes people will have you believe you are voting to save the dividend, yet if you vote yes, you give away an (unlimited) portion of your dividend. Once the trend starts, the Legislature will request more and more of the PFD until there is no dividend and still no solution to the economic shortfall.
Consider: Which entities are the largest contributors to the Yes Committee? Answer: the oil industry. The oil industry and other corporations wish to avoid increased taxation to support state government, preferring a plan that hits individual Alaskans now and avoids long-term economic solutions. This plan is extremely unfair to Alaskans in the lower income ranges as it has a greater impact on their income.
Voting "no" protects the dividend and may force our legislators to seek a true long-term solution. Lastly, only those who vote will have a voice in what is done with the PFD.
Dave and Jan Campana
If taxing, make it open
There is no reason to vote yes on Sept. 14. The money can be still be taken, and if we are going to be taxed, I'd rather see exactly how much is being taken out of my pocket than allow a hidden form of taxation that unfairly takes a greater percentage of potential earnings from poor people than from rich people.
Andrew J. Kitt
Big money talking
It appears that big money is behind the "yes" vote. So to reverse a "no" vote will be easier than reversing a "yes" vote.
No need to tap into dividend
I am amused that there exist people, regardless of their true beliefs, who would broadcast to the world their ignorance of economic history and political science. We have never been presented an accounting plan how we can spend money to save money on the Permanent Fund dividend, and those bureaucrats to whom money is meaningless should learn how a regressive tax is defined. It seems to me that there are a bulk of well-educated Alaskans who derive a good section of their annual residence costs from PFD allowance, which goes exclusively to residents within the state. Until I am shown a real necessity for PFD encroachment, also taxing Outsiders equally or more, I will definitely vote no on Sept. 14. This is not intransigence, it is logic and knowledge applied to reality.
Protect your money: Vote NO
Contrary to what some may try to tell you, the Permanent Fund dividend is not "found money" but is income for Alaskans and is factored into Alaskans' budgets. If through political maneuvering, this money, your money, is taken away directly or indirectly by legislative action, then you are being taxed. Capping the Permanent Fund dividend is one method being proposed to tax your money. This method is a most unfair way of taxation. Those with youngsters pay the most, and the larger the family the more they pay. These are the ones who can least afford it. The older retirees, those on fixed income, also belong in this group.
It does take money to run the government, to maintain highways and to build needed facilities that we all enjoy. The fairest way to provide the needed money is through a combination of an income tax and a seasonal sales tax. By this means, those who can most afford it pay the most, and those who can least afford it pay the least. Moreover, each year when you make out your tax returns, you will be reminded to look at how your elected politicians are spending your money. A watched politician, if he wants to be re-elected, will tend to be careful of your money.
If you want to protect your money, get out and vote no on Tuesday, Sept. 14. The only voice that is heard in Juneau is the one that comes from a voter in the voting booth.
Good thing we get to vote
Here's something to think about. Gov. Tony Knowles spent over $70 million of the state's money to build a road to Whittier, without a vote from the public. Now Tony says that the State of Alaska is running out of funds and he wants to tap our PFD to cover his boondoggles. Good thing they are going to let us vote on this one.
This is really too easy to see. I find myself wondering if it can be this clear. Maybe I am just getting too old to do that grey area thing anymore.
The guys and gals that make their fortunes from state spending simply have to be in support of current spending levels through PFD use. The present level of spending is the result of all demand and no limit to the supply of funding. An income or sales tax would bring many interested and hostile taxpayers to the table when it came time to split up the pie. When people pay sales or income tax, they get real jumpy when some scheme to dress up every new building is going to cost them personally, or they are being asked to feel the pain of a worker making twice what they earn.
All the state admin guys had to counter with when unions use to ask for the moon was that ...uh...well...it is wrong. The money was there, the unions knew it, and the voters didn't know or care, or both. They could negotiate hard, and I am sure they did, but they could never argue with the zeal of an employer on the ropes of financial termination. They could never look the state employees in the eye and tell them to go ahead and strike, we cannot ask our people to pay this bill....every state strike action has been short and relatively meaningless.
When persuasive people, community leaders, argued for community support for state spending, it was hard to see that the future would bring projects that cost more to maintain than we are happy about paying these days, employee bases that spent salaries 'needed' by local merchants who would wail at the thought of any cessation in state largess, an actual mandate to spend a percent of each and every qualifying construction project on art, or bike trails, and programs that never would have been started under a normal tax structure are 'vital'.
Schools cost big money, and always have. A week or so ago, a Compass author argued that we have to continue with state spending at the current level in order to save education in this state. I grew up here in a school system funded by some federal impact money and taxes from the local property owners. We got along all right, as I recall. The teacher's union might disagree, but I think most teachers would agree. That was when Anchorage students were a semester or a whole year ahead of their peers outside, not a student body that was average and proud of it, being taught by some of the highest paid teachers in this nation. It might be different in the bush, but the need for state spending for education in Anchorage was the subject of the article, and this is common among those with whom I discuss this, and those advocating continued spending at a level supportable only through dividend use. We won't miss what we don't get in the first place, I guess. I have mused, in paranoid times, that that is exactly why there is a federal withholding tax.
When citizens are taxpayers, when the folks who give the votes are the ones that give up the money, then and only then will there be restraint and any whiff of conservatism in state spending. 'It's oil money, what is the problem?' was heard too often when asking votes for 'Projects 80' ideas. Look around and see exactly where it has gotten us. We all have had our pet agendas for spending here, and it went well for a while. Now, can you look me in the eye and tell me you think I need to personally pay to maintain current state spending levels? I beg you to see that we would never have gotten to this level of dependency had we retained a small income tax, or instituted a sales tax.
Bryan Porter said something to the effect that no more spending cuts can be made without hurting someone. No kidding, sir. We are about to be asked to tax ourselves to keep state workers, contractors, and all of us, really, from being hurt by state spending cuts. Some pain will be hard to avoid here, I just wish that it be shared, not borne by the taxpayers alone.
What ever happened to honesty? The "Give me your money" yes campaign says that the original idea behind the Permanent Fund was to give it to the Legislature whenever it couldn't reign in spending. I thought the purpose was to save a portion of the oil revenue for our children. The government already gets as much as all of us combined, but it wants more.
The proposed change would take a sizable (and potentially unlimited) chunk of each child's share. It's too bad the children don't get to vote on it. This proposed "solution" to the budget gap heavily taxes each child in Alaska but doesn't tax a single corporation, tourist, or nonresident worker. Phrase the question honestly: "Do you love this Legislature more than your children?" Then cast your vote.
Let me get this straight: In order to preserve the Permanent Fund, we have to let the Legislature dip into it? I think not. Author P.J. O'Rourke said it best: "Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys."
It's not an easy decision
Several friends and I have been trying to honestly evaluate the pros and cons of the proposal put forward in the advisory vote coming up on Sept. 14.
We are undecided.
We know that the long-term plan for the Permanent Fund was ultimately to be used to help support state government - the "rainy day" concept. But we wonder if it's raining yet. Or do we just have a fluffy, white cloud on the horizon? Are there any guidelines for knowing for sure that it is in fact raining? What are they?
We're concerned that the list of primary donors to the Vote Yes campaign reads like a who's who of oil companies. Why? Have the oil companies somehow been promised a reduced tax on their production if the vote passes? If so, what kind of promise was it?
We're offended that the scare-tactic approach has been taken: If we don't vote yes, we won't have a dividend, and the next generation surely will never see one. We question what a yes vote would do to inflation-proof the fund that isn't already possible and prudent.
We question the usefulness of a no vote because, after all, the vote is advisory only and we know that it means squat if the legislators decide to approve the plan.
On the other hand, we agree that we have received healthy checks for many years for doing nothing more than living and breathing in Alaska for the prescribed amount of time. Therefore, do we have a right to expect it to go on without adjustments if the adjustments are truly needed?
We all know people who depend on the dividends for living expenses, education and other worthy causes, not just frills.
The outcome of the vote will go into effect immediately. So it appears that if we vote no, we are assured of the true amount of the dividend this year, even though legislators may overturn our vote during their next session. But if we vote yes, we are locked into the stated, possibly arbitrary, amount of $1,700 this year.
Are the dividends a right or a privilege?
We have concluded that we haven't received any compelling arguments either way. I don't know how I will vote on Sept. 14. Perhaps between now and then, both campaigns will drop their hype and start talking facts. Let's hope so.
Elsie M. O'Bryan
Buying BP stock a good idea
That is a neat idea, Mr. Springer ("State should buy share of BP," Letters, Aug. 23). Buy BP stock with a portion of the Permanent Fund, then receive dividends from them too, plus have the management work for the state. Surely that is an idea the people should look at more closely.
Many budget choices exist
The legislative majority and its sugar daddies in big Outside industry want us to believe that we have only two choices: cut our dividends or do nothing. In reality, the only people talking about a do-nothing approach are the vote-yes campaigners. In fact, the people of Alaska have suggested hundreds of creative solutions to our budget problem.
Because ballot language is often deceptive, look to who's paying for the campaigns to judge their true intent. The Vote Yes campaign is paid for by huge donations from big oil, big tourism and other Outside millionaires and billionaires. Why do they care so much about our budget problems? Because the budget plan calls for cutting our dividends, allowing them to continue to ship boatloads of maney out of state every day virtually tax free and doesn't even close the budget gap but requires "other measures" without saying what these will be.
If your bills exceed your income, what makes more sense: dipping into your savings account or increasing your income? Don't believe the lie that they will abandon us and our valuable resources if asked to pay their fair share. Recent studies published in the Daily News show that they will keep drilling even if they only break even. Who pays the bills to clean up their messes? We do. Let's use basic common-sense economics: Go for the deep pockets! Vote no now!
Andrew Thomson, co-founder
Alaska Action Center
Alaska isn't in financial bind
Is Alaska really in a financial bind?
The state says it needs a portion of our Permanent Fund to pay its bills. It makes me wonder, looking at all the new bike paths and other pork projects being built, millions of dollars being wasted on projects in the middle of nowhere when they should be spent more wisely.
Now the state is doing everything in its power by running expensive TV ads on most every TV station in Alaska. These expensive commercials are telling all Alaskans to vote yes on Sept. 14 and that the state will "protect" and "inflation-proof" all Alaskans' Permanent Fund checks. Seems to me the Permanent Fund has taken care of itself for 18 years. I believe most Alaskans can see right through these TV commercials. After all, Alaskans are not stupid.
Vote no on Sept. 14.
Let's have some answers first
I strongly believe that Alaska needs a fiscal plan that will support many of the essential services that urban and rural residents need, including good roads and schools. This current fiscal year we will withdraw $500 million to $700 million out of the Constitutional Budget Reserve, leaving a balance of $2.8 billion to $3 billion - enough money. That offers enough time to thoroughly look at other more equitable options for supplementing our revenue.
I would like questions like these to be answered: How do we fairly institute a revenue stream that will affect a married couple with no children living in Anchorage earning $80,000 a year the same way it will affect a family of four living in Bethel or Mountain View that earns only $20,000? Why must Slope workers, commercial fishers and businesses from the Lower 48 continue to get a free ride in Alaska by not contributing to our economy? Can we really expect an income tax, sales tax or any other revenue stream to be instituted when the Permanent Fund is readily available for spending? Why must the reason for creating the Permanent Fund 20-plus years ago automatically allow for creating a regressive tax today?
We deserve to be given true options that will not further despoil people living on the margin, as well as capture dollars currently exiting the state. We deserve to be given a choice of inclusiveness and fairness, not exclusiveness and elitism. Vote no on Sept. 14 and demand a dialogue that will emphasize the true Alaska spirit.
Protect dividend from state
You've probably heard that "if you want to protect your dividend, vote yes." This is not true.
After examining the nature of government, I have come to the conclusion that government will expand to the greatest degree possible. If government can, it will spend as much money as the people allow.
Take state agencies, for example. State agencies spend every dollar given to them, regardless if they can do their job with less. Why is that? Simple, if they do their job more efficiently, their budget will be cut. A lower budget is the last thing they want. State agencies rarely cut their own budgets. State agencies constantly ask for more money, and so will the state if the people allow the state into the Permanent Fund.
With that in mind, look at the ballot question the Legislature is posing: "Should a portion of Permanent Fund investment earnings be used to help balance the state budget?" The answer is clear: No.
Why vote no? Because the question is open-ended and there is no limit on how much the Legislature can take from the earnings (your dividend). Without a guarantee or a promise, the Legislature will be able to take more out of dividends later. Be assured the Legislature will not ask our permission next time when it again wants earnings from the Permanent Fund. Remember the nature of government: ever growing and expanding. If you allow the Legislature part of your dividend today, the rest will disappear TOMORROW. Without a guarantee in the ballot question, it will be open season on dividends.
The only sure way to protect your dividend is to vote no on Sept. 14.
Shelton H. Green, executive director
Save the Dividend Mat-Su
Overspending is the problem
A number of states and cities have had financial problems in the past and seem to have been able to overcome them. I am sure they didn't have a stash like the Permanent Fund.
I have not seen any accounting figures as to the amount our legislators absolutely need or why. How come they have overspent their budget? It costs to have special elections. Is that the reason? And when did the overspending begin? It has been requested that they trim their spending and expenses, and evidently it has been ignored. I really think we should have a number of things explained and we should be shown exactly why they need to tap the fund now.
I also believe that if we are going to bail them out now, we are approving their spending. Then I think the problems will only begin and the Permanent Fund will be gone forever.
Why not a tax? Most states and cities have one, and they aren't complaining and seem to get along. When we shop in other states and cities, we pay a tax. Out-of-state workers should pay a tax to our state also if this is where they make their money.
I am sure the budget can be balanced without the Permanent Fund.
Sales tax would be fairest
We Alaskans are a strange breed. We want a lot of things, like raises, roads, good educations. But no one should use our Permanent Fund, we do not want a sales tax, we do not want a lottery because it would bring in crime and prostitution. As if we don't have it already.
Personally, on Sept. 14, I will vote no on the taking of a portion of our dividends, but if it were a multiple-choice ballot, I would vote yes on a sales tax. It is the fairest tax for everyone. Everyone pays, not just a select few. It would certainly be easier to come up with a small amount on each purchase rather than 5 percent to 10 percent coming out of paychecks every week or two as a state tax.
Second, I would vote for a lottery. Each borough would sell tickets, and the proceeds would go to their schools and roads. Wouldn't it be great if we had a law that everyone older than 18 would have to vote before he would receive a Permanent Fund check? But, oh, that certainly would be unconstitutional, right?
Oh, well, que sera sera - whatever will be will be. The future is not ours to see. Que sera sera.
|Paid and maintained by:
Save your Dividend (SYD)
P.O. Box 670
Kenai, Alaska 99611
Bill Parish, Chair