PRESSURE ON GOVERNOR TO VETO THE $1,600 DIVIDEND
A bipartisan group of legislators has written a letter to Gov. Michael Dunleavy, expressing their continued support of a full, statutory Permanent Fund Dividend.
Signers include Senators Mia Costello, Peter Micciche, Mike Shower, Shelley Hughes, Lora Reinbold, and Bill Wielechowski, Representatives Sarah Vance, Ben Carpenter, Sharon Jackson, Gabrielle LeDoux, Laddie Shaw, Dave Talerico, and Chris Tuck.
“We are writing to express our continued support of paying Alaskans their 2019 Permanent Fund Dividends according to the full statutory formula. As you are aware, the legislature has passed House Bill 2001. This bill provided full funding for dividends to be paid according to the statutory formula when it came to the Senate floor. However, the version that eventually passed included a funding level that had been reduced by almost half,” the letter states.
“The amount of each year’s dividend is set in statute by a formula that has been in place and remained the same since the distribution of the very first dividends. Alaskans are fully justified in expecting their dividends to be distributed based on this traditional formula. Similarly, they are justified in feeling angry and shortchanged by the legislature’s unilateral decision to not pay the full amount owed to Alaskans,” the letter says.
The letter contains signatures from from members of all four legislative caucuses: the Alaska House Majority, the Alaska House Republican Minority, the Alaska Senate Majority, and Alaska Senate Democrat Minority.
“The Permanent Fund Dividend is part of what connects all Alaskans, and every Alaskan should have a voice in its future,” said Sen. Mia Costello. “I believe we need to hear from the public before any changes to the statute are made. Until the public has an opportunity to weigh in, we need to follow the statute already on the books when it comes to paying out the dividend.”
“The legislature and the public spent years debating what to do with the earnings of the Permanent Fund before creating the Dividend program in 1982. It was meant to give every Alaskan a direct, equal ownership benefit in our oil wealth and provide an automatic spending cap to protect the Fund,” said Sen. Bill Wielechowski. “It’s one of the most successful and popular programs in Alaskan and American history. Hundreds of thousands of Alaskans rely on the PFD, as do many Alaskan businesses – and they deserve to have the consistency and stability of a statute that lawmakers follow. Under the Constitution, the legislature can change the PFD statute, but until they do, the existing formula should respectfully be followed.”
The governor will sign the Operating Budget in coming days and must decide whether to accept the $1,600 Permanent Fund dividend set by the Legislature, or veto it and call for a $3,000 dividend through another special session.