For many years to come, Alaskans will view the decisions made by our state today and in the years to come as pivotal moments. Whether they look back with gratitude or regret is up to us. The way forward is wide open and the potential for a bright future is there. But it is also the occasion to stumble. Our young state is at a crossroads unlike any we have seen since independence, and our progress can still derail. A vibrant and prosperous Alaska is not a guarantee, but a vision we must work towards.
I’m concerned that the recent decision by the Alaska Permanent Fund board to fire Executive Director Angela Rodell, brutally and without explanation, is an example of a critical move that threatens to derail progress in Alaska with far-reaching implications. for the Permanent Fund and the dividend in the future.
In 2018, courageous, bipartisan lawmakers joined my administration to work towards the adoption of SB26, a framework to sustainably tap into the revenues of the Permanent Fund to pay dividends and government services. This, just four years after the collapse in oil prices in 2014, which decimated Alaska’s income base. The Permanent Fund was suddenly put in the spotlight in a way it has never been before, its mission changing dramatically from simply providing dividends to providing the primary source of income for the operation of the l ‘State. But we took that turn and reduced Alaska’s deficit from over $ 4 billion to $ 1 billion. The performance and management of the fund are now, more than ever, a primary concern for all Alaskans.
Leading the Permanent Fund throughout this existential shift was Director Rodell, who held the state’s multibillion dollar nest egg stable. This stability came from Rodell’s refusal to commit the fund to partisan politics despite his growing mission. Rodell never gave an opinion on how the fund’s earnings should be used, but instead embarked on a strategy that fund managers around the world praise her for: standing up for the fund’s corpus. His firm hand on the rudder helped grow Alaska’s nest egg by $ 30 billion over six years. The Permanent Fund is now worth over $ 83 billion – but this success was only possible because the legislature never violated SB26.
We don’t yet know the reasons for Ms Rodell’s dismissal, but Alaskans rightly question whether this move allowed partisanship to invade the fund and politicize the board. Taken at worst, the decision to fire Rodell appears to be a retribution for her defense of the fund and a way to remove an obstacle to a bigger dividend. A politicized board of directors, a huge fund overdraft, and shifting leadership without an explanation paint a disturbing picture of what we hope will be Alaska’s source of income for generations to come.
We cannot ignore the political landscape that awaits us. Governor Dunleavy’s board appointments led to the accusation of impeaching Rodell and declined to explain why. Governor Dunleavy has made it clear that he will pursue a bigger dividend, even if it means politicizing the Alaska Permanent Fund, and the budget he released recently shows exactly that.
The budget proposal released Dec. 15, bigger PFDs, seemingly minimal cuts to government services and balanced budget are smoke and mirrors made possible entirely by the federal government and price and production forecasts overly optimistic oil, facts Dunleavy hopes you ignore.
Hundreds of millions of federal dollars are pouring in and around the state, with more to come, allowing Dunleavy to fill his budget, have his cake and eat it too. Freeing up hundreds of millions of dollars in public funds by spending federal dollars opens up political opportunities for Dunleavy in his quest to pay bigger dividends to Alaskans. The CARES Act funding made available to states by Congress and President Donald Trump last year includes a carryforward of nearly $ 672 million for fiscal year 22. Dunleavy’s proposal to pay the balance of the dividend Fiscal 2022 builds on those funds, as does its FY2023 proposal. Dunleavy’s PFD proposal increase is only possible with federal funds, as are many of the now fully funded utilities against. which he declared war just a few years ago.
Dunleavy’s first act as the new governor in 2018 was to cut the budget by over $ 1 billion, an act that shattered our ferry system, nearly shut down our state’s entire university system and put endanger thousands of Alaskans while demanding a huge dividend. Now motivated by the politics of the election year, Dunleavy frantically backs off and is saved by none other than the Federal Government he is keen to fight. Remember Dunleavy’s cuts and vetoes since taking office? Almost all of them were paid off in his current budget proposal, leaving many wondering why he spent more than three years draining political capital to come up with a budget proposal that looks a lot like the one I handed him before he was released. ‘he tries in vain to lose a billion. dollars of it and was almost called back. Alaskans cannot afford another four years of wasted time and budget tricks.
Dunleavy will again strive to buy your vote and deliver nothing other than the empty promise of a larger PFD, a promise he has repeatedly made but has yet to keep. . Dunleavy’s choice is to falsely promise the Alaskans bigger dividends and dismantle, or use federal funds to replace the government in the meantime.
Although I made the painful decision to reduce the dividend by the legal formula amount, let me be clear: I support paying the biggest dividends Alaska can sustainably afford, and I am recognizing that the legislature has remained on this sustainable path. But, I would never short or politicize the Permanent Fund – to do so, as Dunleavy consistently proposes, would rob future generations and endanger the fund’s ability to pay dividends or support the services of the Fund. ‘State. This is the difference between me and my opponent – I will always tell Alaskans the truth about our financial situation.
A functioning ferry system, world-class education and university systems, and a stable and supportive business environment are all within our reach; all Alaskans want is someone to agree with them on the choices that need to be made to achieve these goals. The Walker-Drygas Ticket has the vision, experience and honesty to rebuild Alaska.
Bill walker was the 11th Governor of Alaska from 2014 to 2018. He lives in Anchorage with his wife, Donna. He is running for governor in 2022.
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