Alaska Senate passes operating budget with funds for education, homeless sheltering, snow removal, small PFD, energy relief

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Unlike last year, the Alaska Senate this year didn’t pull a fast one on the Alaska House of Representatives and hold the budget hostage this month. Instead, senators passed the operating budget with nearly two weeks to go before the constitutionally mandated end date for this year’s session.

The decision to not repeat last year’s drama, in which the budget was held by the Senate until it was too late for the House to make decisions, is likely a reflection of 2024 being an election year in which half of the Senate will be facing voters in August. Forcing a special session would not be a good strategy for this Democrat-dominated Senate majority.

House Bill 268 passed on Wednesday with the liberal majority voting yes, and the three conservative Republicans voting no.

In the budget, the Permanent Fund dividend amount for qualifying Alaskans follows the Senate’s own 75-25 formula, in which the government takes more from Alaskans’ Permanent Fund dividends than allowed to take by statute. The Legislature has not followed the statutory formula since Gov. Bill Walker broke the formula in 2016 and vetoed half of Alaskans’ dividends, awarding the money to state workers.

Using the Senate’s own flexible formula, fully 75% of the available funds in the Senate version go to government, and only 25% of the oil royalties available for a dividend goes to Alaskans, for a dividend this year of $1,360.

But then, the Senate added back in a novel “energy relief payment” of $220 to bring the amount up to $1,580.

The House version of the budget has a Permanent Fund dividend of $2,223, closer to the statutory formula, including an energy relief payment. The two amounts must be negotiated in a conference committee.

The governor’s budget proposed the statutory formula of $3,500 per Alaskan, but it meant using $2.3 billion in funds to do so.

During floor debate over the budget, majority member Democrat Sen. Forrest Dunbar said he supports a large dividend because he claimed he represents one of the poorest districts in the state (East Anchorage). But he called for a state income tax: “We need a broad-based tax, we need a progressive income tax, it is the most equitable way to do it. If we want to have a healthy, sustainable PFD, we cannot any longer be the only state in the country without any kind of broad-based revenue measures.”

Sen. Mike Shower, Sen. Shelley Hughes, and Sen. Robb Myers, the three-member Republican team excluded from the liberal majority, argued for a 50-50 formula for the PFD, to be paid for with either earnings reserve funds or by simply not filling state vacancies that exist.

The Senate budget has $6.5 billion in state spending, which includes the following:

  • $174.7 million for additional resources outside of the Base Student Allocation, the basic formula for K-12 education. This is the equivalent of a $680 increase to the funding per student, but is not baked in as a permanent item for future years.
  • $7.3 million in additional pupil transportation for school district increased costs;
  • $5.2 million for the Alaska Reads Act to help with K-3 reading;
  • $5.2 million for Head Start to match federal funds to serve more children;
  • $1.2 million for rural Public Broadcasting to enhance emergency communication capability;
  • $30 million for Community Assistance for FY 25 and 26 to help lower local property taxes throughout the state;
  • $4 million to the Municipality of Anchorage for the summer operations of the municipal homeless shelter;
  • $1.3 million for Central Region recruitment and hiring of highway and aviation staff to support snow removal;
  • $7.5 million for grants to childcare providers to increase access to services;
  • $15 million for in-home and personal care assistant services; and
  • $3.7 million to the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

50 COMMENTS

  1. That’s not an energy reliever that’s an insult to our intelligence! Last year they called it a stimulus and I’m still waiting to get the money back from the IRS for the taxes I paid for it!

    • You have to file an amended return. The IRS is not going to correct this as the 1099 issued by the state, and submitted to the IRS, was for $3284 instead of the $2622 that was taxable federally and that is the data they go off of.

      As $662 of the PFD for 2022, was not taxable, you should be due a small refund.

      If you are in the 20% tax bracket that would mean you paid $132 in excess tax and should get that money back.

      Now if you file the amended return yourself, there should be no charge, unless you have a complex tax return, and you should get this money back as a refund. I say unless you have a complex return as some of the free software out there will charge a fee if your return has certain forms or schedules

      If you go to a professional/CPA, they may charge you more than you will get back to prepare and file that amended return.

  2. Yet they still are liars and theirs as we don’t get our full PFD.
    One of these days they will have to answer for there continued lack of care for the rules and laws.

  3. So, let me get this straight, Mr. Dunbar proposes continuing to pay PFDs…but also wants a “broad” tax? We’d have to create a whole new state bureaucracy to collect said tax, costing many millions, to collect what would be a relatively paltry sum from our small population. That seems really inefficient. In the end, you’re still taking people’s PFDs, but just through a different (and hideously inefficient) pathway. I’d rather NOT get a PFD and NOT pay a state tax.

    • I’d rather get a full PFD and pay a state tax. That way, we poor people won’t be paying for all the government spending as we do now when the State fails to follow the law.

      • Many people would prefer to shift the burden off their shoulders and onto someone else’s. But if you were to look closer you would see it would make zero difference. Government is incapable of having “enough” money. If you give the $100 they will try and spend $200. If you give them $1000, then they need $2000, and so on forever.

  4. Adding a state income tax right now would be devastating to small businesses throughout the state, not that Dunbar would understand that – or worse, maybe he does.

      • The problem with moving is the leftists tend to follow you wherever you go. California used to be a great place to live. I lived in Colorado when it was a solid red state. It really didn’t take long for it flip, just a couple of election cycles.

      • Yep, that is a true statement. Given the current cost of living, if they impose an income tax, i and my family will be looking for warmer, more affordable living conditions and this state can go pound sand.

  5. It is time to make the changes necessary and remove these troublesome people from office.
    Murkowski and Peltola need to go first….then let’s get after the rest.

  6. The state should start enforcing the residential rule for dividends. I bet they write more checks than there are residents in the state. The fact the Senate steals money from their constituents on a regular basis is cause enough to unelect this pack of thieves.

  7. What ever happened to doing the will of the people?
    Now, it’s grab their money as fast as you can and don’t worry about it.
    There will be no consequences.

    • Big donors bought the legislators along time ago to make sure they never have to pay an income tax. You are right there will be no consequences as there are no state wide taxes people just don’t care enough to research the clowns is office.

      • LOL. who are the big donor interests lobbying for taxpayers in Juneau? The big lobbyists are oil, fish, and government employee interests.

  8. Anyone who thinks that the state government should collect an income tax on the order of about $1 billion from everyone who works to then turn around and hand out about $1 billion in a PFD to everyone alive, whether or not they can or do work is an idiot! We already have swelling food stamp roles even though we also have jobs at every skill and wage level that cannot be filled. There is no better way to destroy an economy than to discourage people from working, and income taxes, food stamps and a too large government sector all discourage people from working. But unlike N. Korea, Russia, and Red China people who want to work can move away, and people are in fact leaving Alaska to go to work.

    Don’t expect anything that approaches transparency. While the Senate can talk like the annual budget is $6.5 billion the actual spend each year is over twice that. One motto of government is, “We have the right to fool ourselves.” The legislature takes special care to fool voters, as if voters really care. Transfers of money from other sources, especially from federal tax payers and from federal borrowing, planned but largely unbudgeted emergencies such as wildfire suppression that can amount to as much as $100 million, and enterprise revenues in many cases are not counted by those who want the budget to appear to be as small as possible. Borrowing, such as the $7 to $9 billion that is owed to the public employee and teachers defined benefit retirement tiers, which closed in 2006 do not show up in this Senate amount.

    This is the year that all conservatives need to help conservatives running for the legislature. The presidential race should help real Republicans win races but they need lots of grass roots help.

    The Senate Majority wants to run the state over the income tax cliff. The House Majority needs to kowtow to rural Democrats, some of them claiming to be independent, in order to keep woke Democrats from completely screwing the pooch. Lobbyists for increased spending and the public employee unions have much more power than do all the other people who work and loiter in the Capitol Building.

    • Going by the math in Suzanne’s article, that’s the figure I arrived at as well. The state employees and Democrats are robbing us.

      • Democrats, lol.

        I don’t agree with much of anything with Democrats, but if you honestly think the party that has no real power in this state is the one robbing us, … yikes.

        Wake up, kid. Wake up.

      • The more we feed this Democrat ruled AK beast, the more we become the NorthEast US; totally “one party” blue & corrupt (except w/out the good industries & jobs they have)
        In all Democrat NJ, people pay about a thousand a month in prop taxes, almost 7% in sales tax & an avg of 5% income tax.

        It is an awesome place to be a public “servant” except even they all need 2nd jobs to cover the crazy tax rates.

  9. I wish these legislators could quit, give all what they earned and acquired away, rent, then go work at a job for 14.00 an hour. The experience would be better for them and their souls. They are the example of the rich young ruler Jesus told “ Looking at him, Jesus showed love to him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”But he was deeply dismayed by these words, and he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.”
    These guys have no love.

  10. They aren’t worried that it’s a presidential election year which the Democrats and Republicans history was compromising for a higher dividend for votes. The govenor’s dividend proposal was much more realistic that 1500 doesn’t stretch far while some Alaskan towns are paying today 14.00 per gallon for gas.

    • Where is gas $14 per gallon in Alaska?

      Maybe heating oil is in some distant village, but not gas for your vehicle

  11. Alaska is such a corrupt state, top to bottom.
    Alaskan’s voted to move the capital and our pfd is stolen every year. This is in your face tyrannical actions.

      • Greg, I am curious: why have you and the other trolls changed your tune and stopped arguing with the “conservatives” so much? Now you guys all talk like we are all in this together. Why has your approach changed-what is the new outcome of this tactic that you all have changed to?

  12. “If we want to have a healthy, sustainable PFD, we cannot any longer be the only state in the country without any kind of broad-based revenue measures.””

    We have Biden to thank for such a lack of revenue in this state. Maybe we should send him the bill for all our losses. As it is, we’re now having to budget in money to fight in court. >:(

  13. We don’t rate as a consideration as citizens of Alaska. We are not of the donor class or of the patronage class. They will break the law regarding pfd and they will support their constituents- and that ‘aint us.

    Our political class is rancid. Nearly every single one of them. They ought to be delt with accordingly. They are thieves, criminals, and a load stone to Alaskans. A pox on them.

  14. “If I’m elected I will fight for you and your permanent fund dividend” said no politician, ever…….
    Once I get elected, I’ll just….. change my mind.

  15. Next year’s pfd will be at a quarter of what it should be or less. The year after, we’ll be fortunate if we even get one.

  16. This nonsense is on the Republican party. I’m 100% conservative but the Republicans in Alaska are captured. They have been infiltrated by Dems/Libs. The people running the party here let full on liberals run as Republicans and do nothing to combat the problem, so the only answer is that they condone the fake Republicans.

    Alaska will not change until real conservatives are in charge of the party or we form a new one and rid ourselves of these fake conservatives.

    The unions here own the Dems and fake Republicans. There are very few real conservatives left in the AK leg.

    • You are correct sir. The “REAL” Republican Conservatives will need to step up and take back the party. Laura Trump is the new co-chair of the NRC. We need to reach out to her and ask for assistance in weeding out the RINOS here and funding true candidates for office. It will take some serious dinero for AD’s online, Radio commentary and TV blitzes to wake up the conservatives here and make a major push for positive change. Kelly Tshibaka has a platform as well called “Stand”. It is time to make a stand!

      • If the RINOs are removed, our “Republican Women” parties and our AK GOP would be nearly empty. Maybe then we could get to work on the real issues affecting this state and the nation and quit backing representatives that are working to flip our state blue? !

  17. Hands off the PFD! They are now using the people’s PFD to push more of their progressive agenda. We don’t need more money for education. We just need schools to teach reading, writing and math again instead of brainwashing our children with the LGBTQXYZ agenda and confusing them about their gender. If Dunbar is advocating for more money on education, it will be everything but education. America’s next generation is failing because they are not learning things to excel and critically think. Instead, they are getting an agenda jammed down their throats.

  18. Dunbar is a pathetic socialist. His plan is simply a wealth transfer. And he’s a liar. Saying his district is the poorest in the state is asinine and ignorant. Muldoon is opulent compared to the YK Delta.

  19. The best thing Alaska can do is terminate the PFD. Every year the same conflict is argued about. What a waste of time, money and effort.

    • The Alaska Permanent Fund is in the Constitution. I think it would take a Constitutional Convention by the People to remove it. ‘https://apfc.org/history/

  20. Hard to believe how many MRAK readers believe a PFD is guaranteed in the Alaska Constitution. Irony that 8 Red States have passed laws banning Universal Basic Income, UBI is synonymous with PFD

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