Each year in October, Alaskans get what can be described as free money.
However, that does not always mean all of them are happy about the check of $1,022 they will receive beginning this Thursday from the state’s wealth fund for the oil pipeline.
Residents in Alaska were hoping they would receive over twice the amount. One mayor of a small village that has chronic unemployment and living expenses that are astronomical said the smaller dividend checks would hurt his community.
Every year, resident receive checks drawn on the Alaska Permanent Fund, which for many is a reward for living in the state for a complete calendar year.
For some its money to burn, with businesses offering dividend deals. While for others, it helps them pay the bills they might otherwise not be able to.
The annual amount of the checks is based upon an average over five years of the fund, which is in the multibillions of dollars. That took a big hit when the recession years formed a part of the formula with checks in 2013 reaching only $900, but for the past two years, the checks rebounded in size.
In 2015, the checks were $2,072, and this year it was estimated that the checks would increase to approximately $2,100.
That was until Governor Bill Walker shrunk the annual amount due to the deficit in the billions of dollar for the state’s budget, a situation that has been exacerbated by the low prices of oil.
The action taken by Walker was challenged by Bill Wielechowski a state senator in court along with a pair of state lawmakers who alleged Walker illegally vetoed the appropriated fund earnings for dividends.
The state senator said Walker did not do it legally or appropriately as it did not belong as part of the budget.
Walker in a prepared statement said he did not take his action lightly and acknowledged it might upset some of the people in Alaska.
He added that setting the amount for the dividend checks in 2016 was more in line with the historical average and would ensure there was money for distributions in the future.
Many question the veto of Walker saying it creates a financial vacuum for residents in rural Alaska who depend upon the monies for necessities in life.
Others have questioned if the governor has the right to make that veto.