WASILLA — The House comprehensive fiscal plan working group stopped in Wasilla on Friday to hear public comment from residents in the Valley. For over two hours, more than 30 residents of the Valley reiterated that they believe a long-term comprehensive fiscal plan includes a large Permanent Fund Dividend Payout.
“I basically watched the state legislature for the past 10 years just drain the CRB, the constitutional budget reserve fund and you never put it back. You stole the people’s PFD and they’re mad,” said William Luttrell Jr. “Make it a 50-50 split and that’s where Cunleavy’s coming from. We put Dunleavy into office with some help from some Anchorage people but we’ve got to fix it, your budget. That miss Arduin came up here to help you people, you kicked her out and you stonewalled her and now we’re in the same place we were 10 years ago. Your budget is too high, you don’t have nobody to pay for it, that’s yalls problem.”
Members of the comprehensive fiscal plan working group have been hearing from members of the public at listening sessions over the past few weeks following their hearings on the state finances.
“What we’re interested in is what you folks and your idea of a fiscal working policy is. The PFD is obviously part of that, we all know that,” said Rep. McCabe. “What we can affect is a fiscal policy going forward, a long term fiscal plan which is what this group is designed to do.”
The hearing began late due to technical difficulties, but more than 30 people were able to voice their feelings on the state’s finances to the committee.
‘If we don’t have the budget and you’re not working with the budget, you need to figure that out but this PFD as part of this budget was voted in in 1980 and we got our first thing 1982 so this has been part of the Alaskan resources that we have been able to enjoy and they developed the PFD as a very responsible thing. It’s been increasing, not every year but they had a good formula. I don’t think you should mess with it. We stick to our budget, do what we’re supposed to do, make it work,” said Steve Hawk.
Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins chaired the meeting. Sitting beside Kreiss-Tomkins was Senators Shelley Hughes and Mike Shower and Representative Kevin McCabe. Also present at the meeting was Representatives DeLena Johnson, Cathy Tilton and David Eastman and Palmer Mayor Edna DeVries.
“We want the PFD for our children and our grandchildren. They are saving for their college or whatever they want in their life here. I’m tired of hearing a lot of certain legislators saying that people are using it for going to Hawaii or buying weed. Well we’re raising our kids here to want to be Alaskans and to live here and to love the state. So give us the PFD, help us to be able to get through these hard times. If everybody would get their PFD I think our economy would be doing really good here in Alaska,” said Sherry Eichenlaub.
Sherry, Chris, and Aurora Eichenlaub all testified. One member of the public did offer up a separate solution when John Lamont suggested a wage tax on out-of-state workers.
“It is time all Alaskans to benefit form our resources and standing in this country. Important, implement a wage tax on all the jobs out in the ocean, tourism, educators,” said Lamont. “Western Alaska is not subsidized by the state, therefore reducing those residents PFD is certainly a major financial impact on their way of living. Reducing the permanent fund is parallel to taxing rural Alaskans and not urban residents since there is a major cost of living difference. Put the permanent fund formula back into the state constitution.”