Clearly a significant number of Alaskans are upset about Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetoes.
How about everyone be given the opportunity to vote their pocketbooks to show how many and how upset?
Tell the Alaska Legislature to approve that $3,000 permanent fund dividend (PFD) with a rider attached that extends the state’s “pick.click.give.” program to every state program from which Dunleavy slashed funding.
We could all then become part of one of the greatest experiments in citizen government this country has ever seen.
Somewhere between 600,000 and 650,000 PFDs are expected to be issued this year. At $3,000 each, that makes for a $1.8 billion to almost $2 billion pool of money.
If 20 to 22 percent of Alaskans directed this oil-wealth handout back to state government, they’d cover the full $400 million in vetoes.
Does a fifth of the population – a small percentage – truly care enough about the cuts to give back all their free money?
That’s a question impossible to answer without running the experiment.
Maybe nobody would give back a dollar. Maybe 40 percent would give back half, and the cuts would be zeroed.
Maybe 80 percent would give back $1,000 to fill the hole in the belief the budget cuts cause more harm than good to the state economy as the publicly funded economists at the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research argue.
It would be foolish to think all Alaskans would sign away all or even part of their PFD. Some people have pressing personal needs. Some truly believe less government makes for a better state. And some simply hearts so cold they don’t think government should be helping anyone.
The great, silent majority?
We don’t know diddly about the majority.
Maybe they approve of the Dunleavy cuts. Maybe they don’t. Certainly those who oppose the cuts have been vocal.
Would they be willing to put their money where their mouths are?
It’s impossible to know. They could already be doing so. Alaskans have until Aug. 30 to add or modify pick-click-give contributions.
Were the Legislature to approve that $3,000 dividend, it would only take 7 to 8 percent of Alaskans earmarking their free money for the University of Alaska to solve the budget problem caused by a $136 million cut from the institution’s budget.
There appear to be a lot of Alaskans unhappy about that university cut. Are there 45,000 unhappy enough donate their PFD to the university to solve the problem? Would 90,000 be willing to sign away half or 135,000 a third?
These things are impossible to know, but it would be interesting to find out.
The worst of the critics of Alaska would say the state’s vile, conservative, self-absorbed citizenry wouldn’t give back anything. I’d be willing to bet my truck that’s wrong.
Alaskans have hearts of varying sizes. For everyone with no heart, there is someone with a big heart. They bookend the populace.
Where the majority of Alaskans exists between these bookends is an unknown. A pocketbook vote as to how much of the PFD’s free money Alaskans want to spend to aid agencies and institutions hit by the governor’s budget cut is sure to graph itself in the form of a bell curve.
The only question is whether the peak of the curve would be centered between $3,000 and zero, or shifted toward one end or the other.
Maybe only Dunleavy and a handful of hardcore Republican legislators want a state with $400 million less government than the Legislature decided was appropriate. Maybe all Alaskans think the Legislature had it right.
Maybe a majority of Alaskans want even more government. Think about that. If 40 percent gave back the whole PFD, there would be money available to increase what the Legislature approved spending.
I have no clue as to what the majority of Alaskans think about these budget cuts, and neither does anyone else.
How about we find out. Give Alaskans that $3,000 PFD and ask them, beg them if you wish, to vote their free money.