From Sen. Tom Begich <[email protected]>
Subject Redistricting, PFD, and the Next Special Session
Date October 1, 2021 11:28 PM
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Join me Saturday for another "Talking with Tom" SUBSCRIBE ‌ ‌ Dear Friends and Neighbors, By now I hope you’ve heard that you will receive a PFD of $1,114 this month. There was some concern the Governor would veto the dividend again, erasing all possibilities of having a Dividend this year. I’m pleased that this did not happen. I'm happy that we're able to provide an affordable Dividend this year and provide another year of stable funding for necessary and needed public services. I remain disappointed that we were not able to restore all of the governor’s vetoes, but our work will continue. The Governor has called us back for a fourth special session to continue working on a fiscal plan. This likely will entail much negotiation and very little evident action, but I remain hopeful that discussion will be fruitful and the second regular session of the 32nd legislature will result in either progress toward a comprehensive fiscal policy package, or at least establishing a working template for one. I am fearful that we'll instead lock people into uncompromising positions on these issues – a concern I brought to the attention of the Governor and other legislative leaders. Personally, I think we would be better off not having this special session, but instead continuing interim work toward a plan for the next regular session. Switching gears, Redistricting has taken center stage as the Alaska Redistricting Board has approved half a dozen legislative boundary maps including one submitted by our own Senate Minority Caucus. Now the board is touring Alaska, requesting feedback for consideration before a final map is adopted. I encourage you to sign up for email updates and, if your schedule allows, provide insight into your community’s unique dynamics. This process only works if we all participate, and now is the time to get involved. Get more information on Alaska Redistricting Board website Also in this newsletter, I’m continuing my series on the state budget. This time, tackling the origin story of the PFD. There are dozens of places for you to get more information, if you are so inclined. I’m a firm believer that to know where we are going, we have to know where we’ve been – so read up on how unique the Alaska Permanent Fund really is. Finally, I’ve been overwhelmed by the testimony, letters to the editor, and personal emails from health professionals drowning in the surge of COVID hospitalizations. It’s beyond time for each and every one of us to step up and help our neighbors by wearing masks and socially distancing when and where appropriate. It’s up to us to flatten the curve and help our community. We’ve got to do our part. And, more importantly, we must tone down the rhetoric. I have been frankly saddened at the vitriolic comments made by those who refuse to acknowledge the severity of this health crisis toward those who do. Vilifying people because they hold a different point of view is the antithesis of who I believe we are as Alaskans. What is happening to us that we can no longer have civil dialogue? All of us must be “kind to each other,” as Dr. Zink has said time and time again. It is who we are, or, at the very least, who we ought to aspire to be. All my best, Senator Tom Begich Senate District J TOMORROW: Talking with Tom Now that maps have been adopted, it's time for another deep dive into redistricting. Tomorrow, Saturday, October 2, starting at 11 am, I am taking a deeper dive into the legislative process we know as redistricting. Every ten years new legislative district boundaries are drawn. As of August 12 when the Census released their enumeration data, our constitutional countdown began. Join me for a follow up conversation on what fair reapportionment looks like and why it matters. Sign-up here Redistricting Update Thanks to all who attended my recent Talking with Tom. As we head into the public commentary time, we have another virtual event scheduled for this Saturday (tomorrow) at 11 AM to talk about the approved maps up for discussion. You have to pre-register for the event, so don't forget to sign up online to get your attendance link. Until then, a couple of questions have come in regarding next steps, and I thought I’d tackle them here: What does the census data tell us about Alaska's future? Census data does not really tell us about Alaska’s future as much as it describes Alaska’s past. It is up to us (and the Redistricting Board) to determine how those past trends may influence the future. Using all the information we have at our fingertips also helps – things like ISER studies, the American Community Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics – all of this helps give us a better picture of what is to come. What is most notable right now is the instability of the labor force, the extremely low rental vacancy rate, and the correlating steady out-migration of young, working-age Alaskans. This should tell us something about what could be coming if we don’t get our state’s finances in order and invest in education and infrastructure. I would like to learn how this process is going to be handled. How to observe or participate? Where can I get more information? The Alaska Redistricting Board keeps its website up to date. You can also sign up to receive email updates, which I have found really helpful. More at Will this be a precursor to voting rights legislation? I'm interested in vulnerable and senior Alaskan rights. How can I help? There are several groups that are advocating for voting rights and the rights of older Alaskans. I highly recommend reaching out to groups like the Anchorage Senior Center, AARP, Older Persons Action Group, and others to see how you can help. Who loses; who gains; how will it affect us progressives? A fair redistricting map benefits every Alaskan. If we do our job well and we advocate for equitability, everyone will gain. The State Budget In this next installment of my newsletter series on the state budget, please allow me to tackle what exactly is the Permanent Fund, why it was created, and what is the Permanent Fund Dividend. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask me anything directly. I’ll do my best to get you a speedy response. What is the Permanent Fund? The Permanent Fund is a permanent investment fund made up of a diverse range of investments in addition to revenues gained from the development of Alaska’s oil and gas resources. The Permanent Fund's principal (or investment capital) is never spent because our state constitution protects it. The fund’s annual investment income – which is in the Earnings Reserve Account, or ERA -- is available and historically has been used to pay for government services and, starting in 1982, the Permanent Fund Dividend. Why was the Permanent Fund created? Well, in a nutshell – because Alaskans are hyper aware of the boom-bust nature of our resource extraction-based economy, and we wanted to create stability – not only for our state, but also for our future. Ten years after Alaska became a state, the state held an oil and gas lease sale for newly discovered Prudhoe Bay Oil. The $900 million price tag brought quite a bit of revenue into the young state, and debate ensued about what would be a responsible usage of the lease sale. Some years later, Alaskans amended the state constitution to establish the Permanent Fund, directing at least “25% of all mineral lease rentals, royalties, royalty sale proceeds, federal mineral revenue sharing payments and bonuses be directed into the permanent fund.”(1) Since then, prudent management of the fund over the years has lifted the principal of the fund to over $66 billion. The total fund value (this includes the principal and the investment earnings of the principal) is now valued at over $80 billion – although these numbers fluctuate with the volatility of the worldwide investment markets. What is the Permanent Fund Dividend? Prior to the first Permanent Fund Dividend being distributed in 1982, earnings from the Permanent Fund had been used solely for needed and necessary government services and state infrastructure investment. Of course, some folks benefited from these state expenditures more than others. By 1982, the legislature decided to provide an unconditional direct benefit to every Alaskan in the form of an annual Permanent Fund Dividend. The statutes governing the Permanent Fund Dividend are comprehensive, outlining residency requirements, allowed absences, and other considerations for eligibility. Of course, the debate at hand is what does an updated formula for the annual check look like and whether to enshrine that formula in the Constitution. There are many sides to this debate, and in my next newsletter installment, I will try and lay them all out for you. (1) History of the Alaska Permanent Fund: [link removed] Your Chance to Provide Public Testimony to the Alaska Redistricting Board Public Testimony is now being accepted by the Alaska Redistricting Board. Now's your chance to provide your feedback on the adopted maps. You can also provide your testimony online at Anchorage Monday, October 4 4:30 pm - 6:30 pm LOCATION CHANGE: Dena'ina Convention Center Kotzebue Tuesday, October 5 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm Nullagvik Hotel Meeting Room 2 Ketchikan Wednesday, October 6 4:30 pm - 6:30 pm Ted Ferry Civic Center Dear Friends and Neighbors, We’re about to go into a fourth special session. Before the pandemic, I’d be at a party and hear weird things. I’ve heard people say all legislators are crooks and believe that legislators like special sessions because they rake in all that per diem. So, as a maybe too sensitive former legislator’s wife, I’d like to answer those accusations now. Find a profession that doesn’t have some bad apples, from abatement specialist to zookeeper. And religions, including my own and probably yours, have bad apples. Most people are honest, and legislators are no exception. Legislators either love their jobs or are compelled to run for office for reasons other than money or power. As for power, who do you know that has to get the approval of 33 other people (11 Senators and 21 Representatives plus the Governor) to get anything accomplished on the job? People who put on airs aren’t appreciated on the campaign trail or in a legislative session. Is money a motive? Not whining here, but the money isn’t that good. Most people who run were successful before the legislature, and many are surprised by the (pay) cut they’ve taken. And, yes, I’ve had many conversations, or learned by eavesdropping, that some legislators are having trouble managing on their reduced incomes. They don’t get a financial reward afterwards either. Would you pay a roofer, a musician, a fisherman, a general contractor, or nurse more because they are a former legislator? Nope. No one here is happy about a special session. The per diem covers a simple hotel at normal times and meals, but little more. Special sessions are usually at peak price times in Juneau and hotels are often booked to capacity, so even finding a place is hard. Sleeping on a couch in your office isn’t fun and isn’t supposed to be allowed. And, I can’t vouch for others, but when your Senator ends up with no place to stay but the office couch, he doesn’t ask for per diem. There is no special fund for losses due to changes in vacations, or for the flights home to see the family or to do business (unless it is approved legislative business). Those who are supposed to work for others or are self-employed during the interim are out of luck. I get a little crazy when I hear people suggest legislators get no per diem if they can’t get their work done on time. But there is no whining here. This is a job some people love. Legislators who feel they are making their communities better, enjoy working with others, enjoy continuously learning about the state, its people, its businesses, etc. and get a little adrenalin jolt from an often frantic work schedule…those legislators love putting their time in here. Stay Safe, Kayla Contact Me! (907) 465-3704 (Juneau / session) (907) 269-0169 (Anchorage / interim) [email protected] ‌ ‌ Sen. Tom Begich | State Capitol Building, 120 4th St, Room 11, Juneau, AK 99801 Unsubscribe [email protected] Update Profile | Constant Contact Data Notice Sent by [email protected]
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