Last Updated Nov, 2018: Mike Dunleavy will be Alaska’s new Governor.
I’ve also created a full list of our House and Senate members with their PFD stance by voting record. (This will be updated soon to reflect changes after the November General Election)
Does this page look familiar? That’s because it probably is. I’ve been updating this PFD information page since 2008. As a life-long Alaskan, the PFD is, of course, on my list of interests. As a website owner, I thought, what the heck, why not add a news and update page for the PFD? At the very top of the page you’ll always see a “last updated” message to verify all info is current and from this year.
When will the 2019 PFD be announced?
The amount of the Alaska permanent fund dividend is usually announced in mid-September, typically the 18th to 22nd sometime, but in 2017 and 2018, there was not an announcement. At random, on September 4, 2018, the PFD division website began sporting the message below– just a quick note that the 2018 PFD is $1,600. This was similar to the routine in 2017, though the message appeared Sept 14. As a result, it’s unknown if an announcement will be made in 2019. This likely depends on how things play out in the upcoming legislative session.
What’s happening with the PFD? How did it get cut?
As the state faces a budget “crisis,” attempts to restructure the PFD program to fund the government continue.
Former Governor Walker’s push for the PFD began with SB 128 in 2015, which passed in the Senate, but failed to pass in the House and was deemed “dead” as the session ended. However, Walker was bent on cutting into the PFD…
In June 2017, he vetoed a portion of the PFD funding on the state budget limiting the 2016 PFD to $1,000. That had never been done before, but any veto can be overridden by the legislature with a majority vote. None the less, they did not use that power, and the veto stood.
There was a court case filed by Bill Wielechowski, along with former Republican Alaska Senate presidents, Clem Tillion and Rick Halford, which attempted to challenge the legality of this veto. A verdict was awarded in the State’s favor by Judge William Morse. Wielechowski filed an appeal with the Supreme court, but the verdict upheld the superior court’s decision.
Walker’s 2017 budget proposal included a new (nearly identical) bill to SB 128. This, and other bills like it, struggled for passage, and remained undecided as the legislative session (and extensive special sessions) came to a close. Regardless, the operating budget did pass in both the House and Senate. This budget appropriated only $8,611,800 for PFD payments versus $1,501,000,000 by the normal calculation method. This capped 2017 PFDs at $1,100, where as by the normal method, PFDs were projected at $2,220. The legislature took up the capital budget in a late-July special session and likewise passed a budget that also did not fully fund PFDs. Walker’s 2018 budget proposal continued to push his agenda with SB 26.
On May 8, 2018, SB 26 passed the legislature. This bill caps withdrawals from the Permanent Fund at 5.25 percent for the next three years before dropping to 5 percent. The current PFD statutory formula will be used to calculate PFDs, but the government’s draw and the PFD are calculated in the “total” draw. As a result, in the future, legislatures and governors may take funds for government first, giving the people the scraps in PFD form (clearly, your author thinks this bill is a bad thing, no unclear bias here).
Walker withdrew from the 2018 gubernatorial election, and our new Governor, Mike Dunleavy, will take office December 3, 2018. Dunleavy ran a campaign which focused heavily on the PFD with promises to not only restore the previous calculation method and ensure it’s followed in the future, but also to return funds withheld in prior years. While there’s no guarantee these promises will be kept, this could mean the end of-at least this battle- for the PFD.
How much were PFDS between 2016 and 2018, and how much will the 2019 PFD be?
The 2016 PFD was $1,022, just over the $1,000 cap. The 2017 PFD was set at the cap of $1,100, and the 2018 PFD was set at $1,600. Estimates for the 2019 PFD haven’t been made yet, however, one quote for a full PFD along with “back pay” for past withheld funds was $6,700. As the withheld amount is currently estimated at $3,733, this would imply the 2019 PFD may be around $2,976 without back pay.
When this back pay would be delivered (should it actually be paid) is also not clear, but an interview with Dunleavy stated at minimum, any sort of payment couldn’t be done without legislative action, and the next session doesn’t start until January, so don’t expect any more PFD money in 2018. This is definitely a “don’t count your chickens” scenario. While Dunleavy still seems committed to returning the withheld funds, the power of a Governor is not absolute. Even if he wishes to keep his promises, he may have an uphill battle with the legislature to face. In this case, only time will tell.
How much would have the 2016 to 2018 PFDs have been without the cap?
As many of us know, the PFD amount is usually calculated using the last five years of the fund’s returns by:
-Adding the fund’s Statutory Net Income from the last 5 years.
-Multiplying by 21%.
-Dividing by 2.
-Subtracting the prior year obligations, expenses, and PFD program operations.
-Dividing by the number of eligible applicants.
Below are the statutory net income numbers which should be used to calculate the PFD:
(expressed as millions rounded)
FY 2012 1,568-dropped off in 2017.
FY 2013 2,928-dropped off in 2018.
FY 2014 3,531-dropping off in 2019
FY 2015: 2,907
FY 2016: 2,198
FY 2017: 3,214
FY 2018: 6,324
FY 2019: TBA
As low years have fallen away, the fund should have offered high returns for residents over the next few years.
Just how high?
The Senate Democrats of Alaska website has now added a calculator families can use to check how much the PFD cuts have cost them. Per person, that number is currently at about $3,733– a major blow to families with kids. For instance, I’m a single mom of four. I’m out $18,665. PFD estimates for the last 3 years are as follows:
2016: $2,083 vs $1,022 paid
2017: $2,390 vs $1,100 paid
2018: $2,982 vs $1,600 paid
The 2018 Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend was disbursed October 4th. The 2019 PFD filing period will open January 1 with applications available online at 9 am.