DIVIDEND CALCULATION REMAKE WAS TOO MUCH FOR ALASKANS
The Alaska Legislature is mostly cleared out of the Capitol, and Must Read Alaska has learned that the controversial bill offered by House Finance Co-chairs Rep. Tammie Wilson and Neal Foster has been swept under the rug. It is unlikely to be seen again.
Speaker Bryce Edgmon has indicated he doesn’t want the bill to advance out of committee, which explains why House Finance has avoided meeting all week, in spite of published meeting notifications.
HB 1005 would issue a full $3,000 Permanent Fund dividend this year to eligible Alaskans, but would cut their future dividends in half. It also would tap the Constitutional Budget Reserve to pay for those dividends.
The House Finance Committee hearing on the bill was a barn-burner, with testimony going 99-1 against the bill. Callers had various reasons for not liking it, and in their two-minute testimony window, they let the committee leaders have it last week.
Now, a bill is being drafted in the Senate to tackle the dividend, which has not been incorporated in the operating budget that is still under negotiation. It may be offered on Monday, as most business in the Legislature is shut down for the remainder of the week.
That bill, which could be numbered SB 1002, would issue the full dividend and tap the Constitutional Budget Reserve, but would not put in the contingency language that required halved dividends in the years ahead.
Critics say if the bill had passed it would have suffered defeat in a voter referendum. And the political liabilities associated with it were making lawmakers queasy.
The Senate leadership may be realizing that not providing a budget to the governor in time for him to sign it would lead to a government shutdown and that it would be difficult for legislators to deflect the blame away from themselves. A new PFD bill that is more palatable is now the way forward, although this is the sausage of lawmaking, and sausage can change.
The special session can last as long as 30 days, which means it will end June 14, if not sooner. The governor has indicated he will send out layoff notices on that day if he has no budget. He has also been signaling he’ll call a second special session in Wasilla.