It pays to live in Alaska

Not many people get a check just for the act of living and breathing. But there’s at least one place where that’s the case. Scott Thuman takes us there.

With its mountain ranges, glaciers and wilderness, Alaska is rightly known as the Last Frontier.

Bigger than Texas, California, and Montana combined, but with a population of just 725 thousand.

Living here, especially in the winter, can be tough and expensive with so much having to be shipped in. Though, at least there’s a financial benefit that comes from being a resident.

The State of Alaska actually pays its people. Except for felons, every resident from newborns to seniors gets a check each fall. This year’s: 1,114 dollars.

Here in Kotzebue. a small native community inside the Arctic Circle, folks like Frank and Esther Davidovices sitting retired, outside their small fish camp, tell us, it’s a lifeline.

Esther Davidovices: It just make lots of people happy. I mean, they buy food for their kids and pay rent and everything.

Scott: But you need it, right , living here is expensive?

Frank Davidovices: Look at the prices. Look at the gallon of milk, it’s expensive.

Calling life here ‘expensive’ is an understatement. At the local supermarket, the prices are eye-watering.

Bread at $8.99

For a quarter gallon of milk: $4.99

And a simple can of soup, three times what you’d pay in the lower 48 states.

Here, grocery bills can easily be 50 percent higher than the national average.

And utilities, even more, says Sonny Hadley out for errands on his ATV.

Sonny Hadley: I fill up my fuel tank and I’ll be okay for all the way until February, March.

Scott: So, you need that money to heat the house?

Hadley: Yeah, I use it, and my daughter puts part of her dividend into the house also. It helps out a lot.

So where does all that cash come from? In a word: oil. Significant reserves were first identified in the 1950’s, and by the early 70’s the state treasury was taking in millions, prompting lawmakers to create a savings account funded by oil to preserve Alaska’s wealth.

As of late this year, the so-called ‘Permanent Fund’ was worth more than $80 billion.

And since 1982, yearly dividend checks have been sent to residents

Scott: You’ve got large companies from around the world that come in here and get their hands on this oil.

Davidovices: Yeah.

Scott: So, do you think it’s only fair that you all get a cut of that?

Davidovices: It’s fair, yeah. It’s nice, because we own that land, Alaska, and everything. And they get the royalties and give everybody a chunk of it, which is nice.

Another way Alaska, beyond those beautiful views, continues to stand out.

For Full Measure, I’m Scott Thuman in Kotzebue.

Sharyl (on-camera): One note: a recent downturn in fortune for America’s oil industry, with oil production now on the decline, some Alaska politicians insist it’s time for big changes including adding an income tax.

Watch Full Measure: Paid in Alaska

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11 thoughts on “It pays to live in Alaska”

    1. The prices they are referring to are in remote locations. Most of Alaska is remote. The price of a gallon of milk in Anchorage is 3.50. The price of a gallon of milk in Kotzebue is 9.50. The difference: transporting goods to remote locations relies almost solely upon small air operators. UAF does a monthly cost of living survey and has documented cost of living in Alaska communities for many years now. Fuel, lumber, electric rates, groceries, supplies, etc costs differ radically the more remote you are. The road system only serves a small portion of the State of Alaska. There are even villages in the Y-K (western Alaska) where the only way to get to a hospital in winter time is by taking a dog sled for several days. This happened once, and a very young child in a remote village in Western Alaska had succumbed to Whooping Cough because he spent 2.5 days on a dog sled from his village to the Bethel Hospital… Bethel Hospital medevac’d him to Anchorage. He died on the plane. No respiratory equipment small enough to fit his tiny face. Remote means remote here. It’s not a joke.

  1. I live in Alaska. Your focus could have been on how our legislature has been stealing our rightful pdf from us since the Walker Administration “temporarily” stayed the statutory calculation method to find the government in an “emergency” and this has been happening ever since… we should have gotten about $3000. It’s our oil, the royalties are ours. Big fight in the legislature this year to try to stop establishment politicians from doing this. The jerks wasted ALL our state savings on pet projects and “bridge to nowhere” wasteful spending. Then dipped their hands into OUR COOKIE JAR. Sharyl, you often write about government corruption and wasteful spending. Alaska is the source of your next Pulitzer.

    1. DEE CEE,

      To help you understand your
      government’s mismanagement
      of funds :

      The answer is SIMPLE but grave
      for Western Civilization.

      [[ See : Louis Rukeyser
      Louis Richard Rukeyser was an American financial journalist, columnist, and commentator, through print, radio, and television. He was best known for his role as host of two television series, Wall $treet Week with Louis Rukeyser, and Louis Rukeyser’s Wall Street.Wikipedia ]]

      Louis Rukeyzer, in the 1970s, had
      had a panel of four movers and
      shakers in the Financial Industry
      on his show—all of whom were
      asked, near the end of his
      show :

      “What explains America’s financial institutions faltering in
      serving their investers and customers ?

      Three gave an answer related to mismanagement.

      But one caused a how-do-I-respond-to-that? PAUSE in
      Rukeyser and the other three:

      “A decline in morality
      contributed to the bad

      NOBODY had responded—and the show ended there !

      The Holy Bible has been removed from the public square;
      and prayer has been removed from public schools; and
      those restraints against Lying/Cheating/Stealing have been
      replaced with “VALUE-Less” / “Situational Ethics” / and
      “Find Your Own Truth” instructions by public school teachers.

      Add DEGENERATE entertainment and music and books and
      magazines . . .

      What could go wrong—with those American Communist
      Lawyers Union ( ACLU ) Effected outcomes. from the 1950s
      forward ? . . . What could go wrong, DEE CEE ?


  2. I lived in Alaska when the Alaska Permanent Fund was established. The Fund was established as a savings and investment account due to the huge & sudden revenues coming to the State treasury after the Alaska pipeline started flowing oil from the North Slope in 1977.. Smart Alaskans said let’s save and invest a lot of this windfall and set up strict rules where future politicians and legislators cannot touch the money in the Permanent Fund.
    The team that established the Alaska Permanent Fund was led by former Governors Jay Hammond (D) and Wally Hickle (R). The group made rules where a percentage of oil royalty money went into the Alaska Permanent Fund and with that money and revenues generated through investments a certain percentage of the fund’s revenue growth would be paid out to citizens of Alaska through a dividend (Permanent Fund Dividend, PFD). The first dividend check arrived to Alaska citizens in 1982. As the money and revenue to the fund grew the dividend for every citizen grew and vise versa when the money or revenue to the fund declined so did the yearly dividend amount.
    As mentioned the Fund rules, strict rules, were set-up so future politicians and legislatures could not touch the money in the permanent fund. Those rules stood firm until 2016. Something happened in 2016 where the PFD was cut significantly by the Alaska Legislature!
    I moved out of Alaska in 2001 so I can not explain how the Alaska Politicians were able to change the Permanent Fund rules.

    How Alaska State Legislators were able to get their hands on Permanent Fund Dividend money would be a terrific story for Full Measure!

    1. I can explain it. Its’ quite simple. We had a huge surplus in the State Surplus fund that resulted from very high oil prices in the early 2000’s… 7 billion dollars!! But from 2012 forward, prices fell, so the revenue from pipeline dropped. Thus the state’s revenue dropped. But they REFUSED to cut the budget in response. Instead, they repeatedly tapped the surplus funds (because it’s a “rainy day”) and created a fiscal “emergency.” In 2016, Governor Walker (who is toying with running again btw), suspended the statutory calculation method “temporarily” so that the legislature could take OUR PFD funds as a “one time deal” to save the state from economic ruin… ever since that day, the legislature has continued to do that. They set a “cap” of how much PFD funds we pions will get, and they take the rest. This year it was supposed to be over $3,000.00 (we don’t know the exact number…) but they set the cap to $1,149 and TOOK the rest. The withdraw it from the PFD fund, so its no longer gaining interest, and spend it on “earmarks” to enhance their own “electability” later on. Meanwhile pissing off constituents across the whole state. It is a clown world here.

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