As many Alaskans know, Alaska’s constitution treats ownership of natural resources differently than any other state. The specific section is Article 8, and § 2 reads: “The Legislature provides for the utilization, development and conservation of all natural resources belonging to the State, including land and the waters, for the greater benefit of his people.”
There are two interpretations as to the actual meaning of the written words. First, some believe that ownership of natural resources belongs to the people in a quasi-direct form that would be superior to any claim by the state. The second interpretation is that Alaskans own the natural resources through their state government.
There are limited sources – if any – to support the first interpretation, but there are significant and reliable sources to support the second.
In his book “Crisis in the Commons: The Alaska Solution”, Walter Hickel states: “The people of Alaska, through our state government, have acquired ownership of much of our land and of our natural resources. Hickel was one of the main supporters of the state and involved in the negotiations, so his interpretation means more than the interpretations of people who were not involved or who offered interpretations for years – even decades. – later. chapter five of a book titled “Analysis of Access Laws on Federal Lands: Access Options in Alaska”. Links to source documents are provided below. This 1979 source references other documents, including the Alaska Statehood Act and related reports from the 1950s, and includes a mention of Congressional intent behind the natural resource ownership provision. Some relevant quotes from the chapter include:
“The Alaska Statehood Act provides that all lands granted or confirmed under the act include full mineral rights. The law further stipulates that such land grants are granted on the condition that in all subsequent transfers of selected lands, the state reserves all mineral rights and the right to enter and withdraw minerals. » page 106
“The House report accompanying the Alaska Statehood Act indicates that these land and revenue grants were intended to overcome two major objections to statehood: that Alaska had no viable economy outside of federal spending for construction projects and military bases, and that Alaska could not bear the costs of self-government from resources from which revenue could be generated.
Overall, it is clear that Alaskans own Alaska’s resources through their state government. In reference to state ownership of these natural resources, Hickel goes on to say, “The United States Congress ceded our mineral-rich lands to us so that our state government could afford to provide basic services. The intention was not to generate cash payments for people.
Beyond these references is the historical context of how resource ownership in Alaska has been handled since statehood.
Between 1959 and 1976 there was resource development in Alaska, and yet no one once suggested that Alaskans were somehow cheated out of their due by not receiving some form of direct benefit. Even with the creation of the Permanent Fund in 1976, there was no language in the ballot or in the statements either in favor or in opposition to the passage that suggested anything other than state ownership of natural resources and the Permanent Fund itself. -same.
The idea of placing the Permanent Fund dividend in the state constitution is based on a misinterpretation of the state constitution and would violate the intent of Congress behind the very section of the Alaska Statehood Act and the Alaska Constitution that supporters cite as a reason for prioritizing the dividend. program first. No Alaskan has a prior interest in the Permanent Fund or any other state-owned resource. Alaskans own these resources collectively, and only through the state.
Protection of the permanent fund could be best achieved by placing the limit POMV – point of market value – in the Alaska constitution. Regarding the dividend program, the payment of dividends is a political decision and must be pursued as a balanced payment within the framework of the overall budget. It is the job of the legislature to develop annual budgets, and the PFD is part of those budgets. With the Permanent Fund protected by the POMV amendment, it can continue like this.
Greg Krier has been an Alaska resident since 1959.