Permanent fund application period open until March 31
Payout expected to half this year due to state's budget woes
Source: State of Alaska
Alaska's permanent fund - which pays out the much lauded dividend to Alaskans - topped $51 billion in assets as the state's coffers go further into the red.
Alaskans began lining up for their share of the state's wealth Saturday, when the filing period for the Permanent Fund Dividend opened. The filing period opened Jan 1 and will close promptly at midnight, March 31.
As of Tuesday morning, 47,876 Alaskans had applied online for the yearly payout - which last year paid a record $2,072.
A new calculation formula proposed would cut dividend payouts to Alaskans to about $1,000 in 2016, with the balance of fund earnings paying for government services.
The amount may be half or even less of the 2015 payout as the governor and a wary legislature eye the fund's income it derives from its $51 billion in assets compared to the state's billions of dollars of red ink.
Source: Permanent Fund annual report
A graph shows growth of the fund's assets over a five year period.
Lawmakers cannot touch the principal of the fund as per the state constitutional amendment that created the fund in the 1970s.
Its earnings are another matter.
"The earnings in the earnings reserve may be spent by the Legislature for any public purpose, including the Permanent Fund Dividend distribution," it reads.
Last year, more than 644,000 Alaskans received the dividend - which totaled $1.33 billion in PFD checks according to Gov. Bill Walker, who also pointed out that $1.3 billion exceeds the amount the legislature spent for education in 2015.
The state is currently running a deficit of over $3 billion - and oil revenues dropping to 75 percent of the state's treasury in fiscal 2015 from 88 percent the year before according to the Alaska Dept. of Revenue.