With the price of oil now hovering around $117 a barrel (as of March 25) and the state coffers flooded with billions in unexpected revenue, an online petition is urging the Alaska Legislature to approve a full, statutory Permanent Fund Dividend payment for all eligible Alaskans.
“The people of Alaska have been shorted on our PFD payments since Walker vetoed half of it in 2016,” the petition begins. “Every year we have heard ‘we can’t afford it’ from the halls of Juneau. This year, with the surge in the price of oil, and the record earnings of the Permanent Fund, the claim that ‘we cannot afford it’ rings hollow.”
Posted on Change.org by Linn McCabe (wife of State Rep. Kevin McCabe, R-Big Lake), the petition notes that a convergence of forces has made a full PFD all the more urgent for Alaskans.
“Inflation, the fallout from Covid, the high cost of fuel, and predicted food shortages, all converge to drive home the point that there is no better time than now to ensure that Alaskans can take care of themselves,” it states. “We urge ALL legislators to pass the full PFD. There is no greater special interest than the Alaskan people.”
With unexpected oil revenue flooding the state coffers to the tune of a $3.6 billion increased revenue forecast over this year and next year, Gov. Mike Dunleavy is calling on lawmakers in Juneau to issue $3,700 Permanent Fund Dividends to all eligible Alaskans.
Last week the State House Finance Committee rejected an amendment by its Co-Chair Rep. Neal Foster (D-Nome) to issue full statutory dividends of $4,200 to each Alaskan.
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In a March 15 notice, Dunleavy asked the Legislature use some of the surplus to provide immediate relief to Alaskans to the tune of a $3,700 PFD, still $500 short of the full payment called for in state law, but far larger than last year’s $1,114 which was approved by the Legislature.
“Rising oil prices are benefiting government finances and hurting Alaskans,” Dunleavy said. “We must get funds into the hands of Alaskans now when the bills are due, not in a month’s time.”
Deputy Commissioner of Revenue Brian Fechter said current market conditions present a “tremendous opportunity” to provide relief to Alaskans while still putting “billions into savings to deal with future price volatility.”
The Unrestricted General Fund revenue forecast has been increased by $1.2 billion for FY 2022 and $2.4 billion for FY 2023. Forecasts for revenue have also been increased for all years beyond FY 2023.
“Under the 10-year outlook, we can have surpluses while paying the PFD,” Dunleavy said. “We can also rebuild our savings with these surpluses in the range of $11 billion over ten years, based on a conservative forecast of $70 plus per barrel to 2031.”
The revenue forecasts are based on Alaska North Slope crude oil prices of $91.68 a barrel for FY 2022 and $101 for FY 2023, stabilizing at $77 by FY 2031, but with far greater overall production.