Oil-wealth checks lim­ited to $1,000 in Alaska

The Daily Herald - - NORTHWEST EXTRA -

AN­CHOR­AGE, Alaska — Fac­ing a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar deficit, Alaska’s gover­nor on Wed­nes­day cut in half the an­nual checks that give all res­i­dents a share of the state’s oil wealth, but he kept enough money in place to award every­one a $1,000 pay­out.

Gov. Bill Walker had said re­cently that all bud­get-cut­ting op­tions were on the ta­ble, rais­ing the prospect that he might do away en­tirely with the checks, which have been dis­trib­uted for more than three decades and last year climbed to a record $2,072.

Alaska’s gov­ern­ment re­lies mostly on rev­enue from oil pro­duc­tion to stay sol­vent. But de­clin­ing pro­duc­tion and a pre­cip­i­tous drop in oil prices have left the state with a deficit of more than $3 bil­lion for the next bud­get year.

If changes are not made, Walker said, the oil-wealth pro­gram could dis­ap­pear. He urged law­mak­ers to find a so­lu­tion dur­ing a spe­cial ses­sion that starts July 11.

Walker’s re­duc­tion of the oilcheck purse was among $1.3 bil­lion in bud­get ve­toes that he said would re­sult in sav­ings across much of state gov­ern­ment. He com­pared the cuts to run­ning through fire. “The fire is the fu­ture of Alaska,” he said.

Af­ter a news con­fer­ence, Walker told The As­so­ci­ated Press that he runs the risk of hav­ing law­mak­ers over­ride his bud­get ve­toes, but that’s not his in­tent.

“You know, I’ve pulled them back in spe­cial ses­sion so we can fin­ish the job. If they take that time to over­ride my ve­toes, there’s noth­ing I can do about that,” he said. “I’ve done ev­ery­thing I can do.”

Walker has pro­posed sev­eral mea­sures to help bridge the gap, in­clud­ing tap­ping into the oil­wealth fund, which has paid a div­i­dend yearly since 1982.

Walker’s de­ci­sion leaves law­mak­ers in an awk­ward po­si­tion. They must ei­ther ap­prove his pro­posal to cap the checks at $1,000 or risk is­su­ing no checks at all just months be­fore the fall elec­tion.

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