WHERE IT WILL BE ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK
An amendment to increase the Permanent Fund dividend to the full statutory amount of $3,000 moved out of Senate Finance Committee.
The amount, which is the statutorily set PFD, is expected to be reduced again when it hits the Senate Rules Committee on Sunday. Sen. John Coghill of Fairbanks is chair of that committee and is on record as favoring a more modest dividend.
The “full dividend” amendment was offered by Sen. Mike Shower of Wasilla, District E. Voting with Shower was Sens. Peter Micciche, David Wilson, Bill Wielechowski, and Donny Olson. The four voting against the $3,000 were Sens. Click Bishop, Natasha Von Imhof, Bert Stedman, and Lyman Hoffman.
Shortly after the Finance Committee adjourned, Senate President Cathy Giessel, and Sens. Stedman, Von Imhof and Coghill met; subsequent to that meeting, the bill was sent to the Rules Committee, where it will be considered tomorrow and passed to the floor.
BILL COMBINED WITH INCREASE IN STATE SPENDING
HB 2001 has another aspect to it that is sure to be controversial: It adds back about 80 percent of the vetoed budget items that were red-penned by Gov. Michael Dunleavy.
Of the $444 million in vetoes that Dunleavy made to the operating budget, HB 2001 leaves just $91 million of the cuts in place, restoring funding to myriad programs, including $110 million to the University of Alaska System, funds for Medicaid, Public Broadcasting, Senior Benefits, and more.
In the committee substitute bill that passed, funding of the dividend itself is decoupled from the earnings of the oil royalties, with $875 million coming from the Earnings Reserve Account of the Alaska Permanent Fund, $172 million coming out of the Statutory Budget Reserve (draining it), and $900 million coming from the General Fund.
The differences between the House and Senate bills will likely end up in a conference committee. The House bill is either $1,335 or $1,600, depending on whether the House Republican Minority allows the Democrat-led Majority in the House to access the Constitutional Budget Reserve.
Alaskans may be confused at this point about the amount of their share of the oil wealth, which should be in their bank accounts in early October. The Legislature, by abandoning the statutory formula, is left to battle it out politically for the fourth year, but this year it’s clear that the leaders of the Legislature are forcing the dividend to compete with every other program needing funding.