AP NEWS

Anchorage mayor asks lawmakers to look at community dividend

January 8, 2020 GMT

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The mayor of Anchorage has asked state legislators to consider giving part of the Alaska Permanent Fund to cities and boroughs.

Ethan Berkowitz made a pitch to lawmakers Monday for municipalities to share a portion of the annual cash transfer from the fund to the state treasury.

Lawmakers approved the transfer in 2018 but did not determine the specific split of the money between government operations and the permanent fund dividend for residents.

The Legislature is set to consider the issue again after the next session opens Jan. 21.

The Legislature should consider splitting the transfer three ways, with one of the three shares consisting of a “community dividend,” Berkowitz said.

The funds would cover some of the state’s responsibilities, he said.

“A community dividend, in essence, would mean you would divide the dividend payout between state government, the dividend itself and local government,” Berkowitz said.

A community dividend would allow the state to eliminate school bond debt payments and require local governments to take a greater share of public works, Berkowitz said.

“We could do things like plow some of the state road and that would do things like reduce costs at the state level, and at the same time give us increased capacity locally,” Berkowitz said.

Democratic state Rep. Andy Josephson of Anchorage said the measure would be politically difficult to accomplish.

“There’s just been no momentum behind a community dividend,” he said.

The state has repeatedly cut financial support for municipalities since 2014 while transferring some obligations to cities and boroughs.

The Alaska Municipal League, a group that lobbies on behalf of boroughs and cities, has expressed support for the community dividend.