Mayor proposes community dividend, similar to PFD

Published: Jan. 13, 2020 at 10:19 PM AKST
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It's a new year, which means you can start filing for your PFD, but Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz has a different kind of dividend in mind, and the check would go to city hall. Berkowitz's proposal comes as state funding for local governments drops

“In the mid-80's, roughly 40-45% of Anchorage's budget was directly covered by the state,” Berkowitz said. “Today it's less than 1%."

And Alaska Municipal League Executive Director Nils Andreassen said it’s not just anchorage seeing the drop.

“We've seen community revenue sharing decrease by 50% in the last 5 years, and the continued erosion of state resources," he said.

Berkowitz’s proposed community dividend would offset those drops with part of the permanent fund's earnings.

“It's based on a 5% payout off of the entire permanent fund,” he said. “The permanent fund is worth a little bit North of $60 billion, in total that's about $3 billion, it would split it between the state, the dividend, and between local government."

The state and the regular dividend would each still see 45% of the draw, but 10%, about $300 million, would go to local governments.

“If Anchorage had its share of a $300 million payout, that's roughly $120 million, we could pick up a lot of the expenses that the state now carries, bond debt reimbursement for example," Berkowitz said.

And while that would lower the percentage of the PFD, the mayor also made a suggestion that would grow the permanent fund.

“Right now 25% of oil royalties goes to fund the permanent fund,” he said. “I would suggest we put 100% of oil royalties in."

The result would be a roughly $2000 PFD, and money for local governments to take over some of the services currently handled by the state.

“That would result in a cut to the state government, but also increase capacity at the local government," Berkowitz said.

There are a lot of details left to be decided by the legislature, but Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, was skeptical those would be worked out during the next session.

“You're talking about fundamentally changing the way we provide for services in the state and local communities,” he said. “And I don't know that that's something that can happen in 90 days."

Even if it did pass, Wielechowski said it runs the risk of simply being ignored.

“For the last four years, we've had a situation where we have statutes on the books that have simply been ignored," he said.

Berkowitz said some legislators are interested in the idea, though he didn’t want to identify any individual lawmakers. Either way, the proposal's future lies in juneau.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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