Ghert Abbott, published in Ketchikan Daily News, October 30, 2018
On Nov. 6, I will be casting my vote for Rep. Dan Ortiz, as I believe he will work to protect the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend and contribute to its future restoration.
On Aug. 24, Rep. Dan Ortiz made the following pledge to the people of District 36: "I pledge to work towards a lower, safer draw on the Earnings Reserve than what is currently called for in SB 26, and for distributing as large of a permanent fund dividend as is fiscally responsible.... Should our fiscal situation improve, I pledge to prioritize reducing the state's share of the Earning's Reserve draw."
This was not a promise made lightly, but with much hardheaded consideration for the size of the current deficit, the uncertainty of future oil prices, and the likelihood of a national recession in the near future. While Representative Ortiz stops short of supporting a full restoration of our PFDs in the 2019 session, his promises constitute essential movement in the right direction.
The seriousness and sincerity of Rep Ortiz's pledge is demonstrated by his clear support for the policies necessary for the PFD's gradual restoration: "If elected, my first choice will be to see if we can get agreement on eliminating, or at least reducing the per barrel oil credit that currently exists in statute, which would result in significant added revenue. I will then support legislation that makes other potential revenue sources as broad-based and as non-regressive as possible."
If the permanent fund dividend is to be protected from confiscatory state taxation, and if the Alaska Permanent Fund itself is to be protected from stagnation, an alternative state revenue system must be established to pay for essential public services: education, Medicaid, policing, the Pioneer Homes, the marine highway, and infrastructure. As long as there is no such revenue system, it is the path of least resistance for the governor and Legislature to make up severe shortfalls in oil taxes by regressively taxing the PFD money that passes through the state government's hands. A broad-based, non-regressive revenue system is therefore the best protection the PFD could ever have.