Not an Expenditure!By Ghert Abbott
February 28, 2019
Unfortunately, Ortiz’s analysis was marred by a serious ideological mischaracterization of the PFD.
Our Representative wrote: “Dividends are the largest expenditure in our state budget.” The dividend is not a state expenditure and should not be framed as such. Rather, the money taken from the PFD and the Permanent Fund’s Earning Reserve should be considered tax revenue.
This is not a matter of mere semantics; there are real consequences in such definitions and framing. If the dividend is just another expenditure, then that means all of the Permanent Fund belongs to the state government, not individual Alaskans, and the dividend is just another state welfare program. If the PFD is an expenditure, than the deficit is principally caused by the PFD, as opposed to the state government’s ongoing failure to raise oil taxes and implement an income tax. If the PFD is a government expenditure rather than tax revenue, than confiscating money from the dividend is a state cutback rather than a state tax. And if it’s not a tax, then the politicians don’t have to take responsibility for regressively taxing you.
The petroleum resources of Alaska are publically owned – that means they belong to every Alaskan. The money deriving from the sale of this oil therefore belongs to each and every Alaskan. A portion goes to the state government to pay for its public services, while the rest is given to the Permanent Fund Corporation to invest in the financial markets. These investments in turn generate a return; a portion of this return is sent out in the form of dividends to individual Alaskans, while the rest is reinvested to preserve and grow the Fund. The PFDs are therefore your individual income from the natural resource wealth we collectively own.
Back in August, Representative Ortiz pledged to protect “the People’s Permanent Fund Dividends,” explicitly recognizing that the PFD belongs to the Alaskan people. It’s therefore disappointing to see him seemingly backsliding, using establishment language that could easily justify the total elimination of the Permanent Fund Dividend. Words don’t just describe reality, they also affect and even create it.
About: Ghert Abbott was born in Ketchikan in 1986 and is a graduate of Ketchikan High School and the University of Alaska Southeast-Ketchikan.
Received February 26, 2019 - Published February 28, 2019
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