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Alaska taps cherished oil fund to pay state expenses

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Alaska will dip into its cherished oil wealth fund to pay for state government operations for the first time since the fund was set up in the 1970s.

Gov. Bill Walker signed legislation on Wednesday allowing the state to use earnings from the $65 billion Alaska Permanent Fund to help pay the state’s bills.

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The fund is famous for its annual dividend paid to nearly every adult and child in Alaska, but use of the fund for anything else has long been considered taboo.

However, Alaska’s oil-money fortunes have changed dramatically since the boom era. Oil production is only about a quarter of what it was during the late 1980s, and Alaska has no personal income tax or statewide sales tax.

Walker, an independent, said after the signing ceremony that Alaska had reached a “day of reckoning” after decades of relying almost entirely on oil royalties, taxes and fees.

“We knew at some point, our money makes more money than our resources,” he said. “We knew at some point we would have to make this shift”.

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The legislation establishes a rule allowing the fund to be used like an endowment from July 1, with around 5 percent of market value available for general government use.

Since 1982, the fund has paid annual dividends to nearly every adult and child in the state, with yearly payouts that twice exceeded $2,000 per person.

In recent years that dividend – known as the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) – has dwindled and a budget veto by Walker in 2016 halved the payout to $1,022.

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The decision to use the fund money prompted ratings agency Standard and Poor’s to raise its outlook for Alaska from negative to stable last week.

Walker’s political opponents, however, have seized on the issue.

“In 2016, Governor Walker broke Alaskans’ trust along with his campaign promise and cut your PFD in half with his veto. He took $1,100 from every man woman and child in our state,” Republican gubernatorial candidate Mike Dunleavy’s campaign website said on Wednesday.

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Reporting by Yereth Rosen in Anchorage; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Darren Schuettler

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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‘Not only wrong but crazy’: MSNBC panelists recoil in horror from Trump’s ‘abnormal’ views on foreign policy

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President Donald Trump made a number of puzzling and bizarre statements Tuesday about U.S. foreign policy, and panelists on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" were aghast.

The president canceled a tip to Denmark after its prime minister refused to entertain his offer to buy Greenland, offered a stunningly vapid assessment of the situation in Kashmir, and reiterated his interest in seeing Russia rejoin the G7.

"You can really understand in retrospect why Gen. (James) Mattis just quit (as defense secretary)," said MSNBC analyst Mike Barnacle. "He had to leave. You cannot be surrounded by such abnormalities coming out of the mouth of the president of the United States on a consistent, daily, multiple-times-a-day basis. We cannot make it normal, but there's a new normalcy when you see the president multiple times a day saying things that are absolutely, not only wrong, but crazy."

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‘Nuclear weapons arms race is here’: Russians, anti-nuke experts denounce US missile test

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A spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin said that "such tests only proved that from the very start, the Americans were determined to derail the INF Treaty and were making preparations for it."

Nuclear experts and disarmament advocates are warning that the world is witnessing a new arms race after the Pentagon tested a new missile Sunday that would have violated a Cold War-era treaty the Trump administration ditched earlier this month.

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23 Texas cities were targeted in a ‘coordinated ransomware attack’

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The majority of attacks were against small local governments, according to the state's Department of Information Resources.

Cybersecurity experts have been deployed by the state to assess the damage from a "coordinated ransomware attack" that struck 23 Texas cities on Friday, state officials said.

Investigators hadn't determined the origin of the attacks as of Friday evening and were still working to bring cities' systems back online, according to a news release from the Texas Department of Information Resources. The department believes, however, that the attacks came from a "single threat actor."

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