SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

$3000 Dividend Is Not the Law

By Lance Parrish


August 16, 2019
Friday PM

In a recent editorial, the extreme, Pro Dunleavy Anchorage Daily Planet gushes praise on a group of legislators who wrote the Governor a letter voicing support for a $3,000 dividend. Virtually all of these "supporters" are Republican legislators.  Republicans are supposed to be "Fiscally Conservative" but this batch is content to ignore that portion of the platform. 

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"No money shall be withdrawn from the treasury except in accordance with appropriations made by law."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.

Lance Parrish
Fairbanks, Alaska

About: Born, raised, and still living in Fairbanks, Lance Parrish practiced law in Alaska for over 30 years.


Editor's Note:

The text of this letter was NOT edited by the SitNews Editor.


Received August 15, 2019 - Published August 16, 2019

Related Viewpoint:



Viewpoints - Opinion Letters:

Webmail Your Opinion Letter to the Editor


E-mail your letters & opinions to
Your full name, city and state are required for letter publication.

Published letters become the property of SitNews.

SitNews ©2019
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

Articles & photographs that appear in SitNews are considered protected by copyright and may not be reprinted without written permission from and payment of any required fees to the proper sources.

E-mail your news & photos to

Photographers choosing to submit photographs for publication to SitNews are in doing so granting their permission for publication and for archiving. SitNews does not sell photographs. All requests for purchasing a photograph will be emailed to the photographer.