PFD’s biggest losers


Alaskans might be cursing the $1,000 and change they lost when  Gov. Bill Walker, possibly illegally, decided to veto more than $666 million headed for the Permanent Fund Dividend account this year.

But individuals Alaska are far from the biggest losers. Even that proverbial family of 10, which would have lost a healthy $10,250 in anticipated income, looks to be a small-potato player when compared to government agencies trying to use the PFD to collect debts.

Hunting in prime habitat for the Common American Deadbeat, they long ago latched onto the PFD as a potential treasure trove of hundreds of millions of dollars.

PFD Director Sara Race appeared to be in hiding on Monday (neither phone messages nor emails were returned), so 2016 data on the number and value of seized PFDs is unavailable, but it is likely to be similar to 2015 which was similar to 2014 which was similar to 2013.

And all posted big, big numbers in claims for PFDs.

Last year, more than 400,000 applications were filed asking the state to garnishee PFDs to the tune of more than $772 million. That’s $100 million more than Walker vetoed this year.

But the state only approved about $84 million in claims. A similar number would have been expected this year, but Walker cut it in half.

Too bad for Uncle Sam the Tax Man.

The U.S. Treasury led the way in the PFD hunt last year. It filed 9,500 claims seeking more than $183 million that Alaska residents, or former Alaska residents, owed in income or employment taxes. The state was not all that helpful. It paid out only about $11 million on 6,900 claims.

The Alaska Department of Law did better. It filed more than 173,000 requests asking for about $80 million to cover fines, delinquent taxes and attorney fees.  It was awarded just less than $11 million in connection with 53,000 approved claims.

The pattern was repeated for the Municipality of Anchorage and the Department of Labor, number three and four, on the state’s list of “Top Ten Agency Filers.” Anchorage asked for just a hair over $21 million and collected $4.5 million. Labor wanted $13 million and got $3.2 million to cover fines and delinquent debts.

Kids count

The big winner on the list was the state’s Child Support Services Division which asked for $10 million to cover claims against 9,082 deadbeat parents not making child-support payments. The Division was awarded more than $14.5 million on 9,082 claims. It appears to be the only entity that got more than requested.

Behind it on that dubious top-10 list of angry creditors was the University of Alaska, $4 million requested, $2.1 million granted;  the City & Borough of Juneau, $1.5 million requested, $460,000 granted; and the City of Wasilla, $400,000 requested; $220,000 granted.

So much for those “Valley Trash” accusations. Valley folks appear more responsible about their debts than residents of Anchorage. Along with the Wasilla debt filings on PFDs being small, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough didn’t even make the top-10 list.

Every entity on that list would have been in line to collect similar payments this year had not Walker cut the PFD in half. The data would indicate the cut could cost parents with children more than in $7 million in delinquent child-care payments.

Walker’s action is also likely to put some strain on state and local housing agencies.

The PFD Division report notes “state statutes permit applicants to assign their dividend to a government agency or regional housing authority created under Alaska Statute 18.55.996. Any amount in excess of the liability due the assigned agency is paid to the applicant.”

A variety of rural housing authorities have used these pass-through payments to help keep people in housing. The Association of Village Council Presidents (AVCP) Regional Housing Authority in Bethel used PFDs to subsidize almost $300,000 rent. The total came to ab0ut $280,000 for the Bering Straits Regional Housing Authority in Nome. The Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority in Southeast Alaska collected $163,000.

A variety of other authorities got smaller amounts. All will get about half as much this year.





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4 replies »

  1. Walker & the legislature disproportionately hurt low/fixed income Alaskans (disabled, elderly, veterans). One of the cuts Walker saw prudent was to cut heating assistance by 30%, sending the needy a letter that they’d need to make up the 30% on their own (it never paid 100%, so the poor are even harder hit).
    This is from our caring government who claims to have made necessary cuts. The State of Alaska is bloated with bureaucrats that we cannot afford. The legislature had no problem giving themselves a raise, but make sure the elderly & disabled are warm this winter? Don’t care.
    Alaskans won’t forget at the polls.
    Nor will they forget the backers of the PFD cut: ADN, GCI, Murkowski just to mention a few.
    The full PFD should be paid and it will swell our economy, as it always does.

  2. Craig, Here is Walker’s comment, from his latest ADN opinion piece, that you mentioned:

    “My vetoes also included roughly half of the money for this year’s PFDs. The vetoed dividend money is not being spent. It remains in the Permanent Fund earnings reserve, prolonging the state’s ability to pay dividends in the future.”

    Seems like there is definitely some backtracking and tap dancing going on here. All along Walker said he was going to spend the PFD funds he vetoed to cover state bills. But now he is changing his story and says that is not the case, and that he is not going to spend the vetoed amount and the state is not going to get this money to help cover it’s budget deficit. A 180 degree change.

    Also, Walker’s rationale of leaving PFD money in the earnings reserve to “prolong the states ability to pay dividends in the future” makes no sense. The ability of the Permanent Fund to generate earnings that can become dividends is based on the capital investments of the Permanent Fund. Which is doing well. Spreading out dividends over time to Alaskans, if that is his plan, does not help out the state budget at all. So … Walker still hasn’t given us a logical reason why he vetoed half of the PFD distribution in the first place. Every time he writes an ADN opinion piece, his PFD veto logic gets weirder and weirder.

  3. Wwwwhaw I got half a mind to be pissed off about this but then I decided naw
    The glass is half full not half empty . you get what you get
    The real question is : do you get what you deserve or rather
    Do you deserve what you get ???! Jb49

  4. 666 million veto? 666 is the mark of the beast, not the other B word, folks. Some say it the sign of the end times. Just saying.

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