Conference Committee sets PFD check at either $525 or $1,100, as dividend becomes a bargaining chip for budget - Must Read Alaska
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Saturday, July 24, 2021
HomePoliticsConference Committee sets PFD check at either $525 or $1,100, as dividend becomes a bargaining chip for budget

Conference Committee sets PFD check at either $525 or $1,100, as dividend becomes a bargaining chip for budget

The Alaska Legislature’s Conference Committee unveiled the Permanent Fund dividend for this year: It will be either $525, or $1,100, depending on whether the House and Senate can get enough votes to access the Constitutional Budget Reserve and enact the reverse sweep of unused funds from various accounts.

That takes several tricky votes and the dividend is the leverage to get legislators to pass a budget with a fraction of a dividend that will no doubt cause an uproar with at least some members of the public.

In other words, it is the Bargaining Chip PFD that came out of Conference Committee on Sunday.

The Legislature, meeting in a locked building for the entire session, is on Day 145 of session, and it all hinges on the Permanent Fund dividend, which is essentially bringing all its other budget-making to a halt. This is occurring during a time when the overall budget is one of the largest in recent memory, and when the Pension Funds obligations are nearly paid off and the price of oil is over $73 a barrel.

Today, with no members of the public present, the conference committee settled on a dividend that would require pro-dividend legislators to vote for the fifth year in favor of a dividend that is calculated in violation of Alaska Statute.

The statutory dividend would be over $3,000; the governor is requesting a dividend of $2,350, which is 50 percent of the available funds from the Earnings Reserve Account, the same amount that would be released under his proposed constitutional amendment, which has not passed House or Senate.

The budget doesn’t balance without using funds from the Constitutional Budget Reserve, but that takes a three-quarters vote of the Legislature. That’s where the extra $600 PFD payment would come in. To get into the Constitutional Budget Reserve, the two chambers need a three-quarter vote.

Legislators are being put in a bind: To pass the budget and the dividend, the House needs 21 of the 40 representatives to vote yes, and the Senate needs 11 of its members to do so. But to approve an “effective date,” which would prevent a government shutdown on July 1, the House would need 27 votes and the Senate would need 14.

Rep. Bart LeBon of Fairbanks, who sits on the conference committee, voted in favor of the $525-$1,100 dividend. So did Rep. Kelly Merrick of Eagle River. In fact, all but Sen. Donny Olson of Golovin and Neal Foster of Nome voted in favor of the committee report.

LeBon said it seems like a fair compromise. But whether his fellow Republicans in the House agree seems unlikely, given most of the 20 are in favor of a full dividend, and there are some Democrats who also may balk at such a tactic being used on them to rob their low-income constituents.

The House and Senate members have been split on the question of the dividend for the entire session. In the House, due to the PFD deadlock, the budget ended up with a zero dividend, while the Senate put in the 50-50 amount which is about $2,300, which passed by a vote of 12-8, and an amendment to spend $1.5 billion from the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve Account to pay for it the PFD passed, 11-9.

The conference committee report will be printed, sent to both chambers, and then the members must be given 24 hours to look it over before a vote is taken, so the earliest it could be voted on is Monday night. If the report fails, the composition of the conference committee is blown up, and a new conference committee will be appointed with free powers to negotiate.

But meanwhile, pink slips go out to all State workers on Thursday afternoon, and the Legislature’s special session ends on Friday.

How legislators vote on the PFD will set up the framework for the 2022 election cycle, when all members of the House are up for reelection, and half of the Senate will be as well. Senate seats A, C, E, G, I, K, M, O, Q, and S are all on the ballot, as is the governor.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Get out the big red pen Governor Mike! Veto the whole budget!

  • The more things change the more they stay the same. And none of us should be surprised. We are kidding ourselves if we think an election will change the outcome. The very few that will never be voted out will poison the new kids in town and we, the people, will be left out in the cold…again.

  • Vote them all out. Every single one.

    If the empty suit in the governor’s office doesn’t veto the entire damn budget, it’s time to toss his ass out.

    Note to Dunleavy: we don’t expect you to win every fight, but we expect you to go full bore IN every fight. Veto the whole damn budget or resign.

  • The arrogance of these clowns is astounding. They openly don’t care what happens to the peons they rule.

    Make no mistake, they rule Alaska

    • How about that!
      And they keep getting re-elected. What a country!

  • Veto this dividend plan. If any of my reps vote for this I will throw them off my porch when they come to ask for my vote. Buy us out and be done with it.

  • Alaskans who care about this MUST call the members of the conference committee and their legislators to tell them that there is ample money available for us to get a full PFD. It can be done if these legislators are shoved off their collective “Gravy Train”.

    .

    All of the legislators who do not live in Juneau full time get $9,000.00 in per diem each month of the legislative session (according to Mike Shower) so that means they get something like $36,000.00 each for a four month temporary duty in Juneau. None of them spend $9,000.00 per month to live there. When lobbyists are able to “wine and dine” them, most never pay for a meal. This free money for legislators is tax free and far exceeds what they need to live there. It is wrong for Andy Josephson to spend per diem on a Juneau home purchase, but that is exactly what he is doing. Previously Chris Tuck and Scott Kawasaki and tow staffers rented a condo on Douglas that totaled $2,400.00 per month in rent; this means they each paid only $600.00 per month in lodging. But, Tuck and Kawasaki got per diem for lodging far in excess of this. This cannot continue!

    .

    Alaska legislators need to be reimbursed as per diem for actual living expenses while they are in Juneau. ALL other state employees get per diem based on what they actually spend when they must live temporarily away from home. Alaska legislators are no better than every other state employee. Call them up and talk to them about this.

  • Does the word “Republican” mean ANYTHING in this state? It seems like we have conservative Republicans, liberal Republicans, Communist Republicans… the whole spectrum. Never able to STICK TOGETHER AND FIGHT, unlike the cheating Democrats

  • I’ve been telling you folks, the Dividend is poisoning our State. Read ’em and weep.
    $525 would be the responsible thing to do. It would be beyond irresponsible to raid the CBR again for the extra $575. I wish I could sue the Legislature for violating the Constitution on failing to re-fund the CBR but I can’t find an attorney with the cojones. I could go down in history alongside the Zobels who won similar cases in the Alaska and US Supreme Courts. I would wear that distinction like an Olympic medal.

  • Zero integrity.

  • ‘The overall budget is one of the largest in recent memory’ So good that they take their fiduciary duty seriously. Cut! Do they not get it? Oil may be up but the trend is down for production. It’s not about the size of the dividend, it’s about the bloated spending, which shames a drunken sailor on the Barbary Coast.

  • That they’re even discussing such a small dividend is signaling the end of it. The “third rail” has lost its power. Vote these ones out and more just like them are waiting on the wings.

    Nothing short of a statewide strike will get the attention of all the government and union employees who keep voting these clowns in.

  • It is simple economics people.
    ,
    The AK State government does not have a revenue problem, they have a spending problem. Years of spending massive sums of money on items that do not benefit Alaskans as a whole is the problem. Sorry liberals, but the government does not have a duty to… well whatever pet project it is you think they should fund.
    .
    Yet, whenever a special interest tickles the ear of a legislator, suddenly millions of dollars can be spared, even though there is no source for those funds. Tapping into the Permanent fund was an option, but that is soon going to be exhausted. Bet your bottom dollar that income tax will be coming. Once a politician get addicted to spending other people’s money, they find it very difficult to break that habit.

  • Unscrupulous pigs! Vote for me, I promise you this and that, blah blah blah! Yes, unscrupulous pigs at the trough.

  • The cookie jar is open, and you’ll never close it!

  • The whole Finance Senate Committee has been leading this path for years, since the Parnell Administration. Stedman is the leader in the $500. for the PFD. Click Bishop is a stoolie along with ImVanhoff. The whole committee sits in the yes position to anything that is put out there to get this rise out of the public. Remember Stedman went with Dunleay and Zinke to a small town on the coastal road to Canada to plead for use of the extra Covid money for Dept of H and SS. Dunleavy keeps looking for more ways to maneuver and this is it. Stedman is the push and the others follow because its “funny” and they need popularity in the negative. Recall can happen for the committee member leading the pack, which is Stedman.

  • We just had an election six months ago and many of the legislators ran on the theme of a “full dividend.” They better step-up now and start advocating and lobbying the Conference Committee for the full amount, or there will be hell to pay back home.

  • Just say NO to the petty bully from Sitka.

  • Mike, this is your last stand. Veto that budget or loose the support of all Alaska republicans for eternity. If there’s a hill to die on, die on this hill and relentlessly veto this budget. If it weren’t for SB 26 we could give out the full PFD without overspending.

  • Chris Nyman
    No, 525 is not responsible. Because of SB 26 passed under walker the legislature has been allowed to spend money from the earnings reserve. We would not be overspending if the state stoped sticking their noses in the reserve.

  • Legislators played shell games with the budget for the last 2 years, which is what has caused such a knot to unravel. I suspect Giessel, et. al. did this on purpose just so this current BS could occur. I don’t think some of these sneaky, thieving, low-down legislators want to see me face to face right now. I’m so miffed at the ineptness coming out of Juneau (and certain Alaskan judges) that I don’t think I could contain my emotions right now. >:(

  • Chris Nyman, it’s not the PFD poisoning the state. It’s the inept leaders over the years.

  • How did this guy Bishop ever get elected? He sounds like an idiot. The folks up on Fairbanks must be sleeping at the switch.

  • Compromise what does that me.
    It’s are money, it’s the LAW, Pay the full statutory amount.
    End of Story.

  • “The Fund has doubled in size in 10 years to $80 billion, but we still can’t afford to pay the people their PFD, because that is OUR money!!”
    ~the psychopaths in Juneau

  • $525 is $525 too much.

  • Theft by government is theft, no matter how it is disguised, and the Alaska Legislature is guilty of theft on a grand scale. There is no reason, beyond farming for votes, that the law makers should have developed so many welfare programs in Alaska or expanded government to such a degree as they have in the last 30 years. If the legislators would just do their JOB and eliminate some of the spending programs, stop stuffing the wallets of a select few, and get State wages and benefits more aligned to those in the private sector, Alaska would not have a “budget” problem. A budget is figuring out where to spend the money you have, not stealing money to spend that you don’t have.

  • Wake up. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s that the HATE you. They literally despise the electorate.

  • Hawk, you are not talking about Desantis you are talking about lockem down Dunlevy he doesn’t have the stones for a veto. he’s weak at best, controlled opposition at worst. he wont veto anything

  • What is the name of the lying lawyer that told our public servants they didn’t need to follow the code they were given. That person should be dis barred. They also have not been taught that that PFD distribution is our property that they are taking without our consent. What should these servants’ punishment? If your employee was taking your property, your funds what would you do? This is what they are willfully doing in reliance upon crapola legal advice. Who ever the liar is that promulgated that lying speech should have any further opportunity to practice ripping off others in the state yanked. immediately.!!!

  • What is the name of the lying lawyer that told our public servants they didn’t need to follow the code they were given. That person should be dis barred. They also have not been taught that that PFD distribution is our property that they are taking without our consent. What should these servants’ punishment? If your employee was taking your property, your funds what would you do? This is what they are willfully doing in reliance upon crapola legal advice. Who ever the liar is that promulgated that lying speech should not have any further opportunity to practice ripping off others in the state yanked. immediately.!!!

  • All medical advice isn’t equal and good. All legal advice legislators or governors get is not accurate. The bylaws enacted in code in a jurisdiction is applied to the citizens, the public servant representatives bound by oath. Am I, G. ALEUTION, bound by an oath on file to fully the corporate by laws of the State of Alaska otherwise known as “statutes, codes, or in the vernacular (by-)laws? NO! DO THEY HAVE ON OATH ON FILE? You bet your sweet bippy they do. We do not have the right to pay them a penny from the public trust funds to trespass the by-laws of this State of Alaska Corporation. The lying lawyer knows this. He also knows the ignorance level of our paid servants. This is beneath legal professional ethics. Ignorance of the law and being bound to know it is legally equivalent. in other words they have no legal excuse. THEY HAVE NO LEGAL EXCUSE!

  • Knowing the law and being bound to know it are equivalent – a legal maxim certainly overly applied to the inhabitants of Alaska but not applied at all to those sitting at that table with an oath to obey the by-laws of the corporation employing them on file in HR files. Their strategy is greatly flawed.

  • I find it interesting that only the Democrats have low-income constituents.

  • Start out with a statutory PFD and then start cutting non-essential government to get to a balanced budget.
    The cutting needs to start with welfare and social services.
    It is not a legitimate function of government to use public funds to enhance your lifestyle.
    Earn it yourself or go without.
    Another way to look at that is it is not MY responsibility to fund YOUR lifestyle…we are the government and when these legislators begin proposing new taxes or higher fees or taking the PFD to pay YOUR way through life that impacts the rest of us negatively.
    Earn your own way or go beg for private charity from family, friends or anyone else who feels generous. That’s fine.
    Having government take from those who have earned to give to those who have not earned is the basic definition of communism.

  • An example of economically harmful, ignorant, last minute group think emanating from the roadless and seemingly protected from the rest of the world southeastern idyll of Juneau. Truly the best they can do. It invites 300,000 pro-se responses.

  • “As your stomach turns” continues in Juneau. All this bullshit can be blamed on a couple of Rino republicans. They are playing power head games and we need competent legislators to address the real problem, the bloated budget! Voters remember these Rino’s, and people of the southwest time to throw out the old hag and vote for a better Alaska!

  • Full statutory dividend! Period! Bill Walker started all of this crap and look what happened to him. Gone! The disgraced, former governor and his child predator assistant governor. What a pathetic team. The Recall of Dunleavy will die on the vine, as will the candidacy of those legislators opposing the full statutory dividend. If the Lefties want a brawl, they are going to get one after adjournment. Make no doubt about it……this is going to be a serious confrontation.

  • Tell me again why any Alaskan actually “deserves” a PFD. Oh, that’s right – you gave away your subsurface mineral rights. Like any of you were going to drill an oil well in your backyard anyway…

    Actually, you all do nothing to earn it but it has become an entitlement, and the “PFD as birthright” mentality that has taken over Alaska is both sad and sickening. Alaskan Conservatives rage against government social programs and payments, yet they greedily look for their PFD every October, and whine that it’s not bigger. And all of that in a State that can no longer pay its own way.

    Geez.

  • Will this makes my decision on who to vote for in 2022 easier, anyone who isn’t currently serving, though I’m not sure who they serve anyway… Maybe just themselves.

  • These clowns get “elected” because “elections” have been stolen for years. It’s all a scam at the Federal, State and Local level.

  • Here we go again. Same politicians. Same issue. Same bullcrap. Five months in Juneau wasting their time and our money ………Again. These are pathetic people!

  • Yes there are privately owned oil wells wealth in other states. I know a prairie tribe indian guy whose family owns a well. The kids have significant ivy league educations. The private wells are all over in the lower 48. Our Alaskan crude is the cleanest on earth. And, the earth keeps making more oil. Yes it does. Plants love carbon too.

    • Back during the great turndown around 2000, one of my coworkers used his retirement savings to purchase four ‘dead’ oil wells in Kansas. He managed to coax them up to producing about forty barrels a day. He is retired comfortably now.

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