- Associated Press - Thursday, April 27, 2017

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A former state senator is preparing to fight back against a bill that would restructure the Alaska Permanent Fund and reduce the dividends Alaskans receive from the oil-wealth fund each year.

Both houses of the Legislature have passed a version of Gov. Bill Walker’s plan to use some of the fund’s income to pay off the state’s multibillion-dollar deficit, The Alaska Journal of Commerce reported (https://bit.ly/2pCUzfA).

If Walker signs off on such a bill, former Republican Senate President Clem Tillion said he will work to repeal it.

“If they change the law, we will change it back,” Tillion said, adding that he is already getting financial commitments to back the effort.

Tillion, 92, was in the Senate when the constitutional amendment establishing the Fund was approved. He said he does not agree with current legislators and others who view it as a “rainy day” fund.

“Taxes belong to the government,” Tillion said. “The Permanent Fund is the people’s money. We set up a system where the Legislature was not involved. This is the people’s Permanent Fund.”

Tillion and former Republican Senate President Rick Halford had joined Anchorage Democrat Sen. Bill Wielechowski in a lawsuit against the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. in September. The group of former and current state senators claimed Walker illegally vetoed Alaska Permanent Fund earnings that were required to be transferred to dividends when he cut in half the annual checks that give all residents a share of the state’s oil wealth in June.

A Superior Court judge disagreed with the claims brought by Wielechowski, Halford and Tillion. The three have since appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court.

Halford acknowledged Tillion’s new focus to repeal legislation that has not yet passed is premature but said he supports the effort.

Tillion said he is confident he will get the 30,000 signatures needed to put the repeal question before voters on the August 2018 primary ballot should the bill pass.

Walker, who recently met with Tillion, called the former senator his friend and acknowledged the possibility of a referendum. But Walker said restructuring the fund “is a cornerstone of any solution” in Alaska’s budget battle and that he will “continue to push for a full fiscal plan.”

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Information from: (Anchorage) Alaska Journal of Commerce, https://www.alaskajournal.com

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