Understanding the Permanent Fund
I am continually surprised and dismayed that so many Alaskans don’t seem to understand the difference between the Alaska Permanent Fund and the Permanent Fund dividend (PFD). I keep hearing statements to the effect of “I want my Permanent Fund” as well as the assumption that the Permanent Fund is money paid out to Alaskans as some kind of “right.”
It’s difficult to have a reasoned discussion about the Fund and the dividend, and Alaska’s future, unless voters share a common and factual understanding. It seems to me that confusion is encouraged by those who want to manipulate our politics for their own purposes.
The Alaska Permanent Fund was created by voters as a constitutional amendment in 1976 to save a portion of our oil wealth for the future, when oil revenues would inevitably dwindle. Earnings would then substitute for resource revenue to maintain Alaska’s operations.
The dividend was created in statute (that is, as a law) in 1980, to share some of the Fund’s earnings with Alaskans. The idea was that some sharing of the wealth would encourage Alaskans to take an interest in protecting the Fund, to make sure it would be invested wisely and maintained (and grown) forever. Laws, unlike the constitution, are reviewed and altered periodically.
That arguments over the size of dividends are now being used to divide Alaskans and create a political crisis is a very sad state of affairs.
Editor’s note: Due to a layout error in the Aug. 8, 2019, issue, this letter was inadvertently cut off. It is being reprinted here.
Research Reserve adds value
The current dilemma and discussion throughout Alaska about state funding for the University of Alaska brings to mind the ancient proverb;
For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.
How many of the University of Alaska budget vetoes imposed by Gov. Dunleavy amount to losing a nail? How many nails will be lost — how many horses and riders?
Like any quality university, the University of Alaska is a complex academic system with many interrelated parts. This includes a number of allied organizations. Typically, the work of these organizations adds to the education and career development of the students and brings in additional funding via research grants. The Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (KBNERR) is an example of such an allied organization.
KBNERR, based in Homer, is part of a national network of 29 reserves that are supported through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration which requires a state partner with matching funds. KBNERR’s state partner is the University of Alaska Anchorage.
Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, KBNERR has earned an excellent national reputation for user-oriented research and monitoring as well as providing hands-on and field educational opportunities throughout the Cook Inlet region. Furthermore, KBNERR has consistently been a magnet and platform for researchers who come to Kachemak Bay to study its relatively pristine conditions to better understand estuaries and marine resources.
But continuing this work, vital to sustainably managing our local, state, and national marine resources, depends on receiving a small amount of state general funds via UAA as a mandatory match for KBNERR’s operating grant from NOAA. KBNERR’s budget for this year is about $1,225,000. Of that, it gets only $60-70,000 of state matching funds for its NOAA grant — which keeps the doors open and staff employed. The rest of KBNERR funding comes from agencies and institutions, mostly from outside Alaska, for specific projects.
The fundamental point is that the total funds KBNERR attracts is about 19 times greater than the seed money that it gets from the state. And, based on potential projects that KBNERR staff is now working on, this ratio will probably increase if it can keep the doors open. Furthermore, expenditures for food, lodging, charters, etc. by visiting scientists and students brings to the state additional economic benefits. Just from an economic perspective, KBNERR is clearly a winner.
A concern that KBNERR has is that most of the discussion about UAA funding will focus on the biggest issues. What might get lost in the frenzy are the small parts, like KBNERR. Individually, these small parts might not seem significant, but in combination, the small parts can be just as vital to the overall system as the big parts, resulting in what Aristotle said (to paraphrase) “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
Aldo Leopold, the renown conservationist, said “To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.” While fixing Alaska’s and UA fiscal issues might be beyond tinkering, Leopold’s basic message still applies; don’t sacrifice the pieces without first knowing what they are worth. Alaska’s future needs to be based on its value, not its price under a cloud of bankruptcy. State matching funds for KBNERR clearly adds value to UAA and is a worthwhile investment that benefits the public as well as the private sector, such as fishing and tourism. Individually, we could not afford the services provided by KBNERR, but collectively we can.
George Matz, Chair, Kachemak Bay
Research Reserve Community Council
Here we go again, regressive leftist politicians, driven by special interest and a lack of ethics, are wasting yet another year of opportunity and a dwindling bucket of available funds in a pathetic display of mismanagement and childish behavior.
Five years they have had to deal with a shrinking budget — plenty of time to develop a physically responsible glide slope to a sustainable, manageable balanced budget that reflects our revenue. We had an election last year. Remember? Dunleavy won by a very large majority on a campaign of balancing the budget and restoring the PFD. Now, unlike regressive leftist folks like Gary Knopp, Gabrielle LeDoux and Louise Stutes who lied to their constituents during their respective campaigns, Dunleavy has been true to his promises.
He has recognized that an over-bloated budget that continually year after year exceeds our revenue by over 1 billion dollars is unsustainable. Apparently, our Alaska Democrats, like the national ones, don’t understand how our country functions. See, we vote — whoever wins has the mandate. Our reserve has shrunk from about $14 billion to $2 billion in these last five years because these children managing our budget keep kicking the proverbial can into the next budget cycle. In the meantime they just burn through the dollars staying in special sessions, essentially becoming year-round legislators.
Common sense states that overspending our annual revenue is not sustainable. Eventually they will burn through the Permanent Fund as well. Then what? BTW, the Permanent Fund was never set up to be an option for general budget fallback. There are plenty of bloated items to cut. Education and subsidies for arts and the university system, as examples. The University of Alaska was given large chunks of land to be used to offset costs not covered by revenue.
Stop playing us.
Food Pantry grateful for Farmers Market help
The Homer Community Food Pantry Board of Directors would like to thank the Homer Farmer’s Market for their generosity in providing space for nonprofits such as ourselves in order to raise funds for the many important causes in our community.
We at the food pantry are especially grateful to the farmers/vendors who so generously donate produce to us each week so that many in our community may enjoy these fresh organic vegetables. Each Monday is such a delight as all the delicious and nutritious produce is distributed to the community.
Thank you so much.
Susan McLane, Homer Community Food Pantry Board Member
An open letter to Rep. Sarah Vance
Dear Rep. Vance,
I know you’re a puppet, but would you please open your human eyes to see and your human heart to feel? That way you could connect with human beings in your elected position by human beings, some of whom do use their hearts and eyes.
A Big Thanks to Grace Ridge Brewing
The Homer Hockey Association would like to express our gratitude to the folks at the Grace Ridge Brewery. The brewery collected their tips this past month and donated them to our organization. They embody their motto, “Good Beer, Good People,” and we are proud that they continue to include us in their philanthropy.
They do this for many groups and non-profits in the area. I believe the month of August’s tips will be donated to the Independent Learning Center’s T.R.A.I.L.S. program, website www.peninsulailc.org . They are a great organization working to get everyone enjoying life to the fullest.
We are so very fortunate to have the Grace Ridge Brewery. It is not just a wonderful family run brewery with local art and afternoon sun, their contributions to the non-profit groups in this town are beyond generous and enhance the entire community. Thanks again to the Stead family and Donna Beran for all their contributions to our town.
The Homer Hockey Association
Thank you Homer Recreation Group
I spent my summer in Homer with family and enjoyed the Homer recreation program. It kept me active throughout the summer. I also met new friends. Thank you Rudy. It was fun.