Alaska legislators are still debating over the size of this year’s Permanent Fund dividend checks.
On June 4th, with just 10 days remaining in the special session, Senators failed to pass a roughly $3,000 per person PFD.
Finance Committee co-chair Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, presented a proposal on June 3rd to pay $1,600 dividends, which is equal to last year’s PFD. The money, totaling more than $1 billion, would be a mix from the General Fund, Statutory Budget Reserve and the Higher Education Investment Fund. The bill advanced to the Senate floor despite facing clear bipartisan opposition.
Sen. Shelley Hughes introduced an amendment to increase the PFD amount to equal the statutorily calculated amount of more than $1.9 billion, which would give about $3,000 per Alaskan. This would come from the Permanent Fund’s Earnings Reserve Account.
Hughes stated that Stedman’s proposal fundamentally changed the PFD by drawing money from sources other than the fund.
Gov. Dunleavy released a statement on June 3rd in response to Stedman’s proposal in which he promised to veto the bill and said, “it would kill the Permanent Fund Dividend as we know it.” The governor has said that any changes to the PFD should only be made after a public vote on the plan.
Bills to change the formula in both the House and Senate were rejected by the public during testimony earlier in the year.
The House Majority coalition has agreed to a less-than-full PFD to avoid overdrawing the Permanent Fund or again dipping into savings accounts. Though, Dunleavy continues to demand a full PFD with the threat of budget vetoes if the Legislature doesn’t send him one.
House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I- Dillingham, said in a statement after the Senate happenings that the legislature needs to pass the operating budget that is largely agreed upon to avoid a government shutdown on July 1st. Layoff notices are also expected to go out to state employees June 14th if the Legislature doesn’t pass the budget by then.
The House has not passed the capital budget, but could still be done after July 1st, which has been done in the past.