FILE - In this Sept. 20, 2011 file photo, then Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell holds up a sign with the amount of the year's Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend checks during a news conference in Anchorage, Alaska. For decades, Alaska residents have shared in the state’s oil wealth and eagerly anticipated the reveal of the annual check’s amount and dreamed about how they’d use their portion. More recently, the excitement has been muted as Gov. Bill Walker and state legislators have capped the payout in response to Alaska’s budget deficit. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)

Future of Alaska oil check program weighs on governor's race

October 04, 2018 - 12:16 am

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — For decades, Alaska residents have shared in the state's oil wealth. They eagerly anticipated the reveal of the annual check's amount and dreamed about how they'd use their portion.

But more recently, the excitement has been muted as Gov. Bill Walker and state legislators have capped the payout in response to Alaska's budget deficit.

This year's check is $1,600. The payout, by some estimates, would have been about $2,980 if not capped.

Walker defends his decision to halve the amount available for checks in 2016, when oil prices were low and lawmakers were gridlocked on addressing the deficit. But it could cost him re-election.

While some Alaskans defend his decision as politically courageous and a way to preserve the program, others have cast him as a thief.

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