The late Governor Jay Hammond liked to dream big. He wanted to “transform oil wells pumping  oil for a finite period into money wells pumping money for infinity.” His dream came true. Because  of the Alaska Permanent Fund, Alaska is now the only State that earns much of its unrestricted  general fund revenues from the global economy. 

Today, the Alaska Permanent Fund totals more than $80 billion. It’s the largest sovereign wealth  fund in the nation, the pride of Alaska and this month we celebrate its 45th anniversary. 

The Fund’s roots date to 1968 when oil was discovered at Prudhoe Bay on Alaska’s North Slope.  The find was world-class — what they call an “elephant” in the industry. The State held a lease  sale just months after the discovery, and when the last bid was opened, the new State pocketed  nearly $1 billion in bonus bids – enough money in those days to fully fund the state budget for a  decade.  

But needs were great in our young state, and the money was gone before the first drop of oil entered the trans-Alaska pipeline in 1977. Without a mechanism to save some of this instant wealth, leaders like Hammond believed “politicians would spend every windfall to satisfy insatiable short-term needs and demand, only to find themselves in a world of hurt when oil wealth declined. Such had been the experience of virtually every oil-rich state and nation.” 

Hammond, aided by legislative leaders, decided the solution was to put some of the incoming  money into a fund that would strengthen the long-term success of the new state and reduce the  tax burden on its citizens. This led to a constitutional amendment that Alaskans overwhelmingly  passed in 1976 to create the Alaska Permanent Fund. The amendment directed that the Principal  “shall only be used for those income-producing investments specifically designated by law” and that  all income be “deposited in the general fund unless otherwise provided by law.” 

In the 45 years that have followed, realized income from the Fund’s investments totals $78.6  billion, and this money has flowed to the Earnings Reserve Account for appropriation. Since its  inception, $30.3 billion of Fund income has been saved for future generations through inflation  proofing and special deposits to Principal, $11.3 billion remains available for appropriation, and  $37.0 billion has been paid out to current generations, fulfilling the founding vision of  intergenerational equity. 

Of the $37.0 billion paid out to current generations, $24.4 has gone to individual Alaskans in the  form of Permanent Fund Dividends, $12.1 has been distributed since 2019 to support government  services and programs, including the dividend, and $433.8 million has gone to the Alaska Capital  Income Fund based on the Amerada Hess settlement.  

As the Fund has grown, so, too, has its impact on the state. While the state was long dependent  on oil to pay our bills, the Fund — through its many billions of dollars in investments — has indirectly  but substantially diversified the State’s revenue.

Thanks to 45 years of expert management and a disciplined investment strategy, the Fund has  matured to meet its founders’ expectations. Capital Finance International named the Alaska  Permanent Fund Corporation the Best Sovereign Wealth Fund Investment Team in the Americas for  delivering a “stand-out performance.” 

“APFC is strengthened by a diverse leadership team and staff that aim to protect principal  capital and outperform market benchmarks,” the international business publication wrote. “It  forges partnerships with premier external managers to amplify internal investment capacities and  broaden the Fund’s investment reach.” 

The Fund’s success also comes from the legislative and executive branches by supporting and  protecting it through inflation-proofing and special appropriations to the Principal, easing of  investment restraints and passing the Percent of Market Value rule to establish a known and  manageable withdrawal structure that protects the Fund’s long-term value. 

Today Alaskans are proud beneficiaries of a Fund that has grown large enough to pay for many  of our essential services and programs. 

As Elmer Rasmuson, the banker who served as the first Trustee chair, put it: “Money may not be  everything, but I tell you, having the Permanent Fund gives us all a lot of confidence and  determination for the future.” 

 

The Board of Trustees 

Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation 

Chair Craig Richards, Vice-Chair Lucinda Mahoney, Trustee Corri Feige, Trustee William G. Moran,  Trustee Steve Rieger, Trustee Ethan Schutt.

 

 

 

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