How to most equitably and productively spread Alaska’s oil riches was one of the hot topics during the past legislative session.
KDLL’s Shaylon Cochran caught up with District O Senator Peter Micciche on this week’s Kenai Conversation to talk about state finances, oil money and the Permanent Fund.
Shaylon Cochran: Is the expectation that the PFD should be a reflection of the health of the oil industry?
Senator Micciche: Governor Palin certainly felt that way when she did a double dividend. There are some people that believe that’s the way to go. Frankly, I think that getting back to the regular distribution, and then when you have a windfall, putting it away for the future so we can be sustainable without broad based taxes. That’s the thing that Governor (Walker) looked at, I guess. Of course, he wanted other taxes as well.
The way the senate majority looked at it, there was a temporary reduction in the dividend versus a permanent income tax. We did not have the votes to overturn his veto in the legislature and that’s the way that it went. Certainly, when you consider the fact that less than half of Alaskans work, and we’re providing all these services, we have a very low workforce per capita. Not unemployment rate; people that have no desire to work, the reality of it is that impacting those working Alaskans with an income tax permanently was a less favorable outcome than a temporary reduction.
We’re going to push for the highest dividends that we can pay out and hope that we can get back to the statutory (amount) and I think that’s important. But there is a discussion that has to take place.
I don’t know if you remember Alaska, Inc. that Governor (Jay) Hammond proposed. It rewarded longevity and commitment to Alaska. That was challenged by the Zobels. We’re evaluating is there a way to pay larger dividends, constitutionally, to committed Alaskans, as opposed to drawing new Alaskans here because we have the highest value social services and we pay a dividend. Is there a better way to do that, that rewards longevity and commitment to Alaska?
SC: I can’t imagine anybody moving here because they’re going to get an extra $1,600 in October.
Senator Micciche: There is no question that people are moving here for a combination of things. You can call it the Papa Pilgrim Philosophy...
SC: Followed to its conclusion, I don’t know if that’s…
Senator Micciche: Well, that is a problem. So, Senator Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) brags that his district is the most diverse district in the United States. There’s a reason for that. One of those reasons is because the value of our social programs is unprecedented. Second thing is if you have a large family and you’re coming from somewhere else, that $1,600 check is going to become a $3,500 or $4,000 check in the near future. If you have a family of six, your other costs are covered with programs, and you have a guaranteed income because of a check, that’s something we have to evaluate. How do we reward real Alaskans with a PFD that reflects their commitment, and how do we be less of an attractant to those that have decided Alaska is a great place to be unemployed?