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Questions for Alaska candidates
by Jay Hammond


August 25, 2004

Mayor Jim Whitaker of the Fairbanks North Star Borough is right on target regarding management of our natural resources: "The Legislature's responsibility is to fairly gain maximum benefit for the people of Alaska. Legislators who will not accept that responsibility should resign." Amen! After all, Alaska's constitution mandates such management, yet most Alaskans believe it has not been complied with.

Problem is, how can you smoke out those who fail to demand that mandate be met? One way would be to require all candidates to respond publicly to the following questions:

1. Do you promise to support our constitution's mandate that all our natural resources be managed for the maximum benefit of all Alaskans?

2. Do you believe we do not now extract that maximum benefit from, say, either oil, timber, minerals or tourism?

3. If not, would you support legislation to do so?

4. Do you not agree most Alaskans believe no state program better meets that mandate than Alaska Permanent Fund dividends?

5. Do you believe even prospective dividends should not be cut, (thereby imposing, in essence, a "head tax" on all and only Alaskans), before imposing other broad-based taxes and user fees that capture revenue from transients and those most benefiting from state services?

6. Since economists say dividends provide the "greatest bang for the buck" of any state expenditure, should we not attempt to increase rather than reduce them?

7. If dividend dollars are required for essential government services, should they not be "clawed back" as fairly as possible, requiring those who benefit most to pay back most?

8. Do you agree the Constitutional Budget Reserve should not be drawn down beneath the governor's $1.5 billion threshold without triggering actions required to bring it back up?

9. If a broad-based income or sales tax is required to do so, which would you support?

10. If an income tax, do you believe it should be initially capped at no more than one's dividend and removed only by public vote?

11. Would you support legislation to return as closely as possible to the original intent of the dividend program, thereby reducing the magnetic attraction that allegedly lures "freeloaders" up here?

12. Do you believe Alaska should receive its originally agreed upon one-third share of our oil wealth, as we did before the economic limit factor was amended, thereby reducing our share to but about 20 percent?

13. If so, will you support amending ELF to do so?

14. Are you the recipient of any campaign financing by oil interests?

15. If elected, do you promise to at least support bringing legislation to do any of the above to the floor for full debate, rather than locking it up in committee?

16. Do you believe we should now enact "insurance" legislation, which only if and when needed will bridge the fiscal gap with minimal pain should the constitutional budget reserve drop below 1.5 billion?

17. Would you support the following legislation: "Up to 5 percent of the market value of the Permanent Fund may be appropriated annually. No more than 40 percent thereof may be used for essential government services. The remainder shall be directly distributed in dividends to all qualified Alaskans."?

The above would at least permit dividends to grow substantially while allowing hundreds of millions to be spent for essential services, if truly needed. Moreover, it requires no constitutional amendment to avoid invasion of the fund's corpus in years when its earnings did not exceed inflation.

While it does not assure the predictability (nor the hazard) of a "percent of market value" spending 5 percent annually, whether or not such involved spending more than the fund's earnings, it provides reasonable predictability so long as the fund earns more than 8 percent, as anticipated.

Passage of such language this next session would give voters two years to evaluate the modified POMV approach before enshrining it in the constitution.

I hope the media and pollsters put all the above questions to each candidate and publishes their responses. Only by so doing will voters likely have any idea for whom they should vote.



Note: Jay Hammond was the governor of Alaska from 1974 to 1982.



Note: Comments published on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.



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