Misinformation about the Permanent Fund dividends regarding the legal rights of residents misleads many Alaskans. Some people mistakenly claim that residents own the resources, that they own the Permanent Fund, that they own the income of the Permanent Fund, and therefore have a legal “right” to PFDs. Incorrect legal claims, for some, become their banner for political debate.
These legally incorrect claims are causing many to shout out loud unsubstantiated and undocumented claims that the people of Alaska have direct ownership of both the petroleum resource and its royalty stream.
Alaska’s constitution, the state’s supreme law, contains Article VIII on “natural resources.” Section 2 reads, in full: “The legislator provides for the use, development and conservation of all state-owned natural resources, including land and water, for the benefit of its people. “
The constitutional language of Alaska, drafted in 1955 and subsequently adopted by vote of the residents of Alaska, served as the basis for granting state status to the United States in 1959. Nowhere is the ownership of the United States. residents were not recognized; our constitution simply does not include any resident property.
There is no part of “state membership” that allows residents’ ownership of natural resources or a primary right to income generated by state resources.
Resident property advocates appear to fail to understand – or worse, choose not to reveal – the potential risks of claiming property, including adding such language to the constitution. In addition to the destruction of Alaska’s ability to govern itself, which would ensue if residents held that stake, efforts to remove full state ownership of natural resources violate federal law on natural resources. ‘State of Alaska.
Section 4 of the Alaska Statehood Act states that Alaska: “And his people agree and declare that they forever renounce all right and title to any land or other property not granted or confirmed to the State …”
Article 5 reads, in its entirety: “The State of Alaska and its political subdivisions, respectively, shall have and retain title to all property, real and personal, title to which is in the territory of Alaska or any subdivision. Except as provided in section 6 hereof, the United States will retain title to all property, real and personal, to which it has title, including public lands.
Section 6 deals with “Selection on Public Lands,” where Alaska had the right to select lands on Federal Public Lands for Alaskan property.
A real risk to Alaska – confiscation for the benefit of the federal government – arises if substantial ownership of Alaska’s resources is transferred to residents. Section 6 (i) of the Alaska Statehood Act is straightforward: “Provided that any land or minerals subsequently disposed of contrary to the provisions of this section be forfeited in the United States by appropriate proceeding brought by the Attorney General in the United States District Court for the District of Alaska.” “
Legally, what these sections mean: If Alaska relinquishes full ownership of its resources and royalties by granting residents a prominent right to a PFD over competing state government bonds, there is a risk of confiscation. It was well understood at the time of independence that Alaska did not have a self-sustaining economy – other than federal spending – so Alaska would be unable to bear the cost of self-government without them. income generated by its natural resources.
Raising PFD payments to a first right, by asserting that a resident’s interest in the natural resource is superior to the interests of Alaska, violates the Alaskan constitution and the Alaska Statehood Act.
People who, intentionally or unintentionally, mislead about PFDs for political purposes should be rejected.
Alaska’s Constitution is clear: natural resources belong to the state. The Alaska Statehood Act, the law of the US government, is clear: Natural resources belong to Alaska. The mess with that and the risk for Alaska is the confiscation of land or minerals in the United States, which by default ends all future PFDs.
Alaska’s constitution is also specific in highlighting the evil called dedicated funds – See s. IX Sec. 7. Claims that PFDs have a priority claim on Alaska revenues, whether by statute or an attempt to insert constitutional language, are to seek dedicated funds, to the detriment of Alaska’s ability to manage self-government. Dedicated funds are prohibited. The creation of VFI as a primary “property” is the allocation of funds from resources. Dedicated funds, which also create a risk of confiscation, severely limit Alaska’s ability to pay the cost of self-reliance.
Neither PFDs nor dedicated funds, which take priority ownership of Alaska’s natural resources away, are part of Alaska’s constitution. PFDs must remain secondary to Alaska’s ownership of its natural resources. Alaska must have primary access to revenue generated from resources from Crown lands. PFDs cannot be dedicated from natural resources.
Joe paskvan is a retired Alaskan life lawyer. He served in the Alaska State Senate from 2008-2012, including a year as co-chair of the Senate Resources Committee. He lives in Fairbanks.
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