$3000 Dividend Is Not the Law
By Lance Parrish
August 16, 2019
All of the listed "supporters" signing the letter were excluded from the Majority and chose to meet separately in Wasilla to shore up the Governor's extensive vetoes. Either sour grapes or "if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem". You choose.
The Planet Editor congratulates this minority coalition declaring:
"Instead of relying on the 1982 statute to set the dividend’s amount, some lawmakers have opted to instead use political whim and expediency to set the amount. It is nice to see some lawmakers still have respect for the law."
Respect for "the Law" the editorial boldly claims. What is "the Law" that is "being respected"? The Permanent Fund was created as an Alaska Constitutional Amendment. As "law", it states in part:
"All income from the permanent fund shall be deposited in the general fund unless otherwise provided by law."
The Alaska Constitution also requires that all spending by done by "appropriation".
"No money shall be withdrawn from the treasury except in accordance with appropriations made by law."
So, the "provided by law" in the Amendment creating the Permanent Fund means no PFD can be paid until an "appropriation" of money is made "by law". The statutory PFD formula is clearly not an appropriation. And, in "law" the formula is actually nothing more substantial than a previous legislature's suggestion. The Constitution's Drafters wisely concluding that one legislature cannot "bind" future legislatures to an appropriation by simply passing "a law", such as the PFD formula. According to the Governor's sycophants, adhering to the Alaska Constitution, as the 2019 Legislature did, is "political whim and expediency".
Ironic isn't it, that this Governor, and his supporters, contend the legislature is legally bound to follow the 1982 statutory formula for the Dividend, yet this same Governor withheld the previous legislature's forward funding for education claiming such funding is "illegal" unless the legislature makes a new "annual" appropriation. Hypocrisy, or ignorance of "the law"?
Similarly, Governor Mike Dunleavy has vetoed half of the state's "legal" obligation towards debt reimbursement for school projects which was, of course, provided by "the law". But, again, school debt reimbursement is subject to an annual appropriation, just like the PFD requires an annual appropriation before it can be paid.
With his school debt reimbursement veto, Dunleavy purposely shifted the burden of bond payments to those school districts that collect property tax, unconscionably punishing the residents of those school districts that do pay property tax, while simultaneously demanding the State pay a higher dividend according to "the law", thereby further exacerbating the already unequal contribution to education. Hypocrisy, or ignorance of "the law"?
The spending structure established in the Alaska Constitution unambiguously requires revenue be deposited in General Fund. No taxes or other fees can be "dedicated", binding future legislatures to required advanced funding. This Constitutionally created logic (specifically including the Permanent Fund) then commands that each legislature, independent of the previous, evaluate anticipated revenue and prioritize spending based upon the current needs of the State, an apparently novel concept according to the Governor. Dunleavy prefers to reverse the rational Constitutionally required approach, concluding that his campaign promise of a $3,000 PFD trumps all other program considerations.
Although morally nonsensical, it would at least be consistent with "the law" for the Governor and his "supporters" to argue, as a pure policy matter, that shelling out a $3,000 dividend is a higher spending priority than funding our University, school debt reimbursement, subsistence payments to seniors, housing for the homeless, or, for God's sakes, help for Alaska's most vulnerable, the Children. But to instead arrogantly assert that paying a $3,000 dividend is required by "the law" is simply wrong and pure political pandering to selfish voter greed. The "political whim and expediency" which the editor disdainfully denigrates is actually "the law".
Chris Birch had it right. Senator Birch and his colleagues in the Majority followed the Constitution and made the correct budget call according to "the law". The Governor, using vetoes as a weapon to extort a higher dividend, and his "supporters" relying on the 1982 "law", are simply wrong.
And the saddest part is that the Governor and his legislative cohorts know it.
About: Born, raised, and still living in Fairbanks, Lance Parrish practiced law in Alaska for over 30 years.
Received August 15, 2019 - Published August 16, 2019
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