Legislators must guard our Fund – pass a constitutional PFD now

For a long time, significant issues about our Permanent Fund have been bungled and avoided. How long?

Too long, since 2016, when then Governor Walker decided to ignore the long-standing formula to pay the dividend embedded in Alaska law.

The failure to pay the dividend according to statute has created political chaos. Every legislative session since Walker vetoed the dividend payment has seen political fighting over the size of the dividend. Without a fix to the dividend fight, Alaska cannot adopt a sensible fiscal plan.

The time to act on the dividend formula is now. Pointing to higher oil prices or using the upcoming election as an excuse to continue avoiding decisions is unacceptable. The financial well-being of Alaska is deteriorating because of the inaction by our elected officials. Action is needed now, not down the trail.

The best way to solve the annual dividend brawl is to put a workable dividend formula before the voters as part of a constitutional amendment. In order to fix Alaska’s fiscal uncertainty, the first step is to address the dividend and then work on government needs and revenue measures. Alaska’s citizens and their dividend must be addressed first, not government spending, taxes, or any other issue related to solving the fiscal situation of our state.

The Permanent Fund is the greatest thing we have done for Alaskans since statehood. The Fund takes a portion of our current non-renewable revenue from oil and holds those funds in trust for the future.

Instead of allowing the current generation to spend all the funds on themselves, we wisely saved for the future.

Providing a fair dividend to every Alaskan prevents a raid on the fund in multiple ways. Without a dividend, individual Alaskans are without a stake in their savings account and the Fund will quickly become less than permanent. As Gov. Jay Hammond once warned: “As go the dividends, so goes the Permanent Fund.” Without dividend protection we risk losing the Fund in the future.

The annual failure of our elected officials to adopt a fair and sustainable dividend formula is corroding Alaska’s political discussion. Instead of acting decisively on the dividend, too many politicians have avoided difficult choices. Since 2013, the Legislature has gutted Alaskans’ savings accounts spending over $20 billion to fund government.

Now, with oil prices elevated and federal funding flowing into the state’s treasury, far too many politicians are seemingly content to avoid dealing with the citizen’s dividend or putting our fiscal house in order.

We need to act now. But we need to act responsibly.

Current proposals to use the Percentage of Market Value (POMV) formula to fund government and a dividend have potential to erode the value of the Permanent Fund.

The current dividend proposal based on a 5% POMV payout is set too high. With inflation running at over 5%, the 5% POMV (with 50% to government and 50% to dividends) presents an unacceptable risk to the fund’s growth.

Other threats to the Alaskans Permanent Fund loom. There is increasing evidence select individuals and special interests are salivating at the prospect of investing the Permanent Fund in pet projects that are not competitive based on normal prudent investment criteria. We are dangerously close to politicizing the investment criteria for the Permanent Fund. If we allow this to happen, the best idea we Alaskans adopted in our statehood history – the Permanent Fund – will be destroyed.

Alaska’s elected officials have repeatedly demonstrated an inability to spend money responsibly. Saving money has also been a problem. Many of these elected officials overpromise and underperform when it comes to dealing with Alaska’s finances. The legislature has spent too much and saved too little of our mineral wealth.

That’s why we call on Alaskans to demand that dividend legislation is passed in this 2022 session. The citizens need a constitutional formula and one that works for all Alaskans, not just government.

The formula needs to protect the fund from inflation. And, the formula needs to grow the Permanent Fund, not just government.

The formula should provide every Alaskan with a guaranteed dividend derived from their Permanent Fund.

We must avoid converting the Permanent Fund into a development slush fund to back dubious projects advocated by special interests.

The only way our elected officials will protect the Permanent Fund and your dividend is if voters demand constitutional protection of Alaskans’ commonly-owned resource wealth.

Joe Geldhof is a lawyer in Juneau and a board member of the Permanent Fund Defenders. Juanita Cassellius is a nurse in Eagle River and coordinator for Permanent Fund Defenders. (www.pfdak.com)

BBB’s Red Flags When Looking for Love Online

Technology impacts every aspect of our lives, including romance, and dating websites continue to be a primary way to meet potential love matches. Unfortunately, it is also a way for scammers to increase their pool of potential victims.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) numbers show that romance scams have risen 50% from 2019 to 2020, with a record $304 million lost. People ages 40-69 were the most likely group to report losing money, and people 70 and over had the highest median losses. However, the younger generation wasn’t left out as the number of reports doubled for 20 -29-year-olds from 2019 to 2020.

Scams happen because con artists play on their victim’s emotions. From loneliness to wanting to find that special someone, emotions can often be the primary influence on actions, rather than logic. Catfishers take advantage of this vulnerability and earn the victim’s trust. Understanding how the scam artist appeals to our emotions is one step towards preventing the con.

The Better Business Bureau recommends the following tips to help detect the red flags:

Too good to be true. The scammer’s picture shows an attractive individual who is financially successful, overshares elaborate details about their life and is ready to jump into a relationship. If they come across as too perfect, take a step back. A reverse image search of their profile picture that pulls multiple profiles means the images and identity of someone else has been stolen.

In a hurry to get off the site. The catfisher quickly moves from communicating via the dating site to email, messenger, and the phone. This takes the relationship to the next level, which is exactly what they want.

Straight to dessert. The relationship goes from zero to 60 too fast. The con artist will refer to a future together and says “I love you” quickly. They know how to say all the right words to make the victim feel special.

They are talking about trust. In addition to the word “love,” the catfisher introduces “trust” into the relationship. They constantly talk about how vital trust is in their relationships and that they know the victim is trustworthy. This sets the stage to ask for money later.

Unable to meet in person. While the scammer talks about meeting in person, they always have an excuse as to why they can’t. For example, they often say they have to move around a lot due to their military status or they are taking care of a family member. Ask for a video chat – if they still pull every excuse in the book, they are likely not the person they claim to be.

Watch out for the language. BBB studies have revealed that many romance scam operations are traced overseas. They say they are from the U.S.; however, their writing indicates they haven’t mastered English. Do they use phrases that don’t make sense or struggle to keep up with the conversation?

Life has been rough. The catfisher has a tale of being down on their luck, for example, they’re stuck in a foreign country, a spouse or child died, they have a sick relative or any story to make you feel sorry about their situation.

They ask for money. When someone you have never met in person starts asking for money, be cautious. The relationship has built up to this moment where the payoff finally happens for the catfisher, and the victim loses financially – most often over time.

Protecting yourself or a loved one from a romance scam begins by recognizing the con. Remember, the catfisher uses our emotions to steal our hearts and our money.

To learn more about romance scams and other consumer tips, visit Trust-bbb.org.

Roseann Freitas

Better Business Bureau

Example: 9075434113