A uniquely Alaskan event – the distribution of the annual Permanent Fund Dividend – is coming up on Sept. 20 and I’m pleased to announce that it will be the largest in state history.
The 2022 PFD, at $3,284, is being sent out a couple weeks early this year as Alaskans bear the brunt of inflation we haven’t seen since the first dividend was paid in 1982.
For a family of four, a total of more than $13,000 can go a long way in offsetting the record-high costs of energy and food we’re experiencing, preparing for winter, paying off debt, saving for college, or any number of other purposes.
We are sending out the PFD early this year because of the difficult times Alaskans are going through, but it is important to remember the dividend is not, and has never been, a welfare payment.
Rather, the PFD is each Alaskan’s share of our collective resource wealth. It is ours to use as we see fit, and I have always maintained that the people know how to spend their money better than the government does.
I also recognize that despite this year’s historic amount, it is the seventh year in a row in which the statutory dividend formula that remains on the books has not been followed.
For those who remain frustrated by this situation, be assured that it is frustrating for me as well.
As we’ve known since 2016 when this 40-year-old system was broken, governors can only reduce the PFD; they can’t increase it.
Like my belief that Alaskans, and not government, know how best to spend their money, my position on the statutory PFD formula has also been consistent: the Legislature needs to either follow the law or change the law, and if the law is changed, it must be done with the consent of the people.
The only sustainable solution is to trust the people, and to let their voices be heard.
Trust in government is earned; it is not owed. Our governments at the local, state, and federal level are formed to serve the people, not the other way around. All too often, elected representatives forget that once the campaign ends and governing begins.
I have not forgotten who I work for, and each year in office I’ve worked to deliver the biggest PFD possible under the constraints of the 2017 Supreme Court decision that ruled neither the governor nor the legislature is bound by the statutory formula.
In that respect, I’m glad that Alaskans are receiving a PFD of historic size this year.
At the same time, a tremendous amount of work remains to solve this issue by returning to a predictable formula that takes Juneau politics out of the equation once and for all.
I’m committed to working with the people and Legislature to get it done.
Mike Dunleavy is the 12th Governor of Alaska.