ALASKA: The state’s mini-basic income comes under increasing attack

Alaska’s small basic income, the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD), is coming under increasing political attacks as the state’s fiscal crisis grows. the dividend, in place since 1982, has been incredibly popular, but the double-hit of declining oil prices and declining oil production have created a fiscal crisis that has forced the state to look for new revenues. As Basic Income News has reported recently, both legislators and the Alaska public have shown an increased willingness to divert Permanent Fund earnings from the dividend to the state general budget.

As this year’s record-setting dividend checks of $2072 were being distributed, several editorials argued for reducing or eliminating the dividend and using that money to fill the state’s budget gap.

Craig Johnson, Chairman of the State House Rules Committee, recently spoke in defense of the fund, but went so far as to say only that touching the Permanent Fund should be a “last resort” that he does not support, “right now.”

Paul Jenkens, Tim Hale, and Mike Navarre have all written in favor of diverting funds from the dividend, and the Ketchikan Borough Assembly is considering a resolution urging the state to divert funds.

Some of the arguments are as simple as this statement from Tim Hale, “To me, it comes down to one thing: I’d rather lose my dividend than pay taxes.

Hale’s attitude is very much the opposite to that of the founder of the dividend, the late Governor Jay Hammond, who believe that a dividend was far more important than a tax reduction. The dividend ensures that all Alaskans, rich and poor, share in the wealth of the state. Only people with substantial incomes benefit very much from lower taxes, and how much they benefit depends on the size of their income.

For more information, see the following articles:

Paul Jenkins, “Don’t tax Alaskans until state cuts to the bone and adopts endowment model for Permanent Fund.Alaska Dispatch News, September 26, 2015

Tim Hale, “Use Permanent Fund earnings to pay for services – and cap dividend at zero.Alaska Dispatch News, September 30, 2015

Mayor Mike Navarre, “Permanent Fund earnings can help keep state afloat.Fairbanks Daily Newsminer, September 27, 2015

Alaska Business News, “Johnson Touts Benefits of Dividends to Local Economy and Vows to Protect PFD.Alaska Business News, October 2, 2015

Mary Kauffman, “Ketchikan Borough Assembly Considers Urging State to Include Permanent Fund in Fiscal PlanSitnews, October 03, 2015


About Karl Widerquist

Karl Widerquist has written 957 articles.

Karl Widerquist is an Associate Professor of political philosophy at SFS-Qatar, Georgetown University, specializing in distributive justice—the ethics of who has what. Much of his work involves Universal Basic Income (UBI). He is a co-founder of the U.S. Basic Income Guarantee Network (USBIG). He served as co-chair of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) for 7 years, and now serves as vice-chair. He was the Editor of the USBIG NewsFlash for 15 years and of the BIEN NewsFlash for 4 years. He is a cofounder of BIEN’s news website, Basic Income News, the main source of just-the-facts reporting on UBI worldwide. He is a cofounder and editor of the journal Basic Income Studies, the only academic journal devoted to research on UBI. Widerquist has published several books and many articles on UBI both in academic journals and in the popular media. He has appeared on or been quoted by many major media outlets, such as NPR’s On Point, NPR’s Marketplace, PRI’s the World, CNBC, Al-Jazeera, 538, Vice, Dissent, the New York Times, Forbes, the Financial Times, and the Atlantic Monthly, which called him “a leader of the worldwide basic income movement.” Widerquist holds two doctorates—one in Political Theory form Oxford University (2006) and one in Economics from the City University of New York (1996). He has published seven books, including Prehistoric Myths in Modern Political Philosophy (Edinburgh University Press 2017, coauthored by Grant S. McCall) and Independence, Propertylessness, and Basic Income: A Theory of Freedom as the Power to Say No (Palgrave Macmillan 2013). He has published more than a twenty scholarly articles and book chapters. Most Karl Widerquist’s writing is available on his “Selected Works” website ( More information about him is available on his BIEN profile and on Wikipedia. He writes the blog "the Indepentarian" for Basic Income News.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.

One comment

  • Henry Martin

    Makes sense. Use money that belongs to the people (by statute, established 40 years ago) to pay for the largess of companies and individuals who do not wish to pay income taxes.

    Change the rules to suit the elite class.

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