Legislature’s last hours is full of intrigue, at eases

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It’s horse-trading season for the last hours of the Alaska Legislature’s regular session, and that means it’s also bill-stuffing season. Those legislators with bills they want to pass — and who haven’t been able to move them — will try to wedge their bill language into other bills that are already on the floor.

The piece of legislation most Alaskans are paying attention to is the state operating budget, which contains the Permanent Fund dividend appropriation. Alaskans have a dog in the fight because $3,850 per qualifying Alaskan is on the potential chopping block.

The conference committee — a body of six from the House and Senate — hammered out a negotiated amount of $3,850, and also reduced the overall budget by about $1.5 billion. The final budget deal went to the Clerk’s Office, and was to be on the desks of every legislator 24 hours before the end of tonight’s floor sessions, which is expected to go until midnight. There will be a final vote.

There are understandings and there are side conversations at play:

In the understandings department, the governor originally wanted a 50-50 dividend for the people, plus an “even-up” from what the Legislature took from their dividends last year. That’s what this amount of $3,850 represents. He also wanted the people to be able to vote on putting the way the PFD is calculated into the Alaska Constitution. That is an item he is not getting.

The budget and the dividend needs a three-quarters vote — a supermajority — to access the Constitutional Budget Reserve as one of the sources to pay for it. The short version is: If 11 legislators in the House and six in the Senate vote no, every Alaskans loses $550 from the dividend that now stands at $3,850. The supermajority is 30 in the House, 20 in the Senate, which will require a lot of anti-dividend Democrats to vote in favor of this budget.

If they don’t vote for this budget, word is that the governor will veto capital projects from their districts. This year’s capital budget is the largest in a decade, and it’s a target-rich environment for the governor to get what he can for Alaskans in terms of a dividend. Alaskans are facing the highest gas and heating oil prices of their lives, along with inflation that is over 11 percent for the essential goods and services they need.

For this vote, and for this dividend, lawmakers really have nowhere to hide. They will have a tough time explaining to the people of their districts why they voted against their interests.

As for side conversations, one wealthy Anchorage senator has been working the halls to try to knife the deal. Careful observers in the halls of the Capitol say Sen. Natasha von Imhof, who is an opponent of large dividends, has been visiting other lawmakers to get them to vote against the deal. Von Imhof is not running again for Senate and is said to be preparing to take the helm of the Rasmuson Foundation, her family foundation that some call the fourth branch of government and the second-most powerful branch of government, due to its endowment and therefore its control of the nonprofit sector in Alaska.

Last year, she implored her colleagues to not vote for a statutory dividend, in a speech that was shocking, in that she called it “greed and entitlement.”

“The greed and the entitlement is astounding to me,” von Imhof said to the Senate last year, describing the people of Alaska who support the statutory formula for the Permanent Fund dividend. She is working her magic again this year.

The operating budget vote comes at a price for all lawmakers. All of them who are up for reelection this year — and that is almost all of them but Von Imhof and Sen. Donny Olson — will have to face their voters to explain why they voted down the $550 portion of the PFD, and why they cost their district needed capital budget items such as road maintenance.

15 COMMENTS

  1. I have to say Imhof and Olson should not ever have been voted in, but to keep them in is ludicrous. I am glad they are not running! Greed and Entitlement is what the Alaska Legislature has been about. Hopefully, we will be able to change that with November elections.

  2. With all this trading going on why is it that the Senate Majority Leader cannot un-table her BIG BILL? She was told, “Nope, just like would happen to a new Senator in the Senate Minority, you get zilch.” At the same time, the Senate Minority Leader gets all his bills and all his capital projects. I don’t understand. Anyone have any actual answers? Senator von Imhof called the Majority Leader’s bill a bad name; is that what made the Majority members pee their pants on this bill?

  3. The reason Democrats are anti-dividend are because the labor unions hand them cash through various means. This is a conflict of interest and should be dealt with immediately by the FBI. Remember the Corrupt Bastards Club? Same thing.

  4. Just do it the citizens need help we deserve oath integrity. I understand why most citizens won’t vote the feeling of being sold out is devastating. This could be a step back in a direction we all can unite on Hope & faith in our elected officials let’s just pass it and move forward ALL as Alaskans

  5. Senators Stedman and Von Imhof have an unquenchable thirst to expand and “protect” the principal of the Permanent Fund at any and all costs. With inflation exploding in the economy at large, it is not difficult to suggest that in future years the perceived costs of “inflation proofing” the Permanent Fund will expand to include all available earnings of the Fund. And, it will not be difficult to suggest that “inflation proofing” will eliminate the dividend.

    The reasons for the thirst of the Senators to “protect” the Permanent Fund through massive appropriations to the principal of the Fund have never been adequately explained. We started “protecting” the Permanent Fund through this process about forty years ago “for future generations.” I hate to inform Bert and Natasha, that at least one future generation has grown up and left the State to live in areas offering economic opportunity. In my view, saving money for the purpose of saving money is irrational. It is rational to save money for a purpose or specific goal. At this point, the Permanent Fund has no purpose or goal, other than to serve as a plaything for legislators and investment managers. The process of killing the dividend continues.

    • Perhaps it is time to end the P-fund altogether. It’s original intent was to keep some of the vast oil wealth out of the hands of Political Operatives and thereby limit the size, scope and power of the Government. Since Walker this has been turned on it’s head. The fund now is an enabler for Government growth, waste and corruption.

  6. I’ll believe Dunleavy does something – anything- when I see it happen.
    Not one second before. I bought that “stand tall for Alaska” BS once before.

    Instead of sending him red pens, send him pampers.

  7. Every one of the members in both Houses that voted against the full PFD should be ashamed of themselves . Am looking forward to not having to look at and listen to the Rich Girl next session. Pretty certain her family is proud of her. We do have a few good ones in Juneau, keep them.

  8. The last hoo-rah for the spoiled little rich girl? I’ll believe that when she actually goes away. Nasty princess helicopter hair, most of the State cannot stand your entitled and greedy actions that hurt all of us – hypocrit. Once upon a time, I respected her – but that was years ago and before I learned how much she hates us. Governor Mike – thank you – we wouldn’t get any dividend at all without your standing tall.

  9. UNTIL alaskans realize that the same group of illegal lawyers that control the Nasty nine assembly in anchortown are the same group that steal from the 700,000 remaining needy alaskans AND TAX little children, things wont change … build back better bullies will keep winning unless they make the connection. The GREAT thing is CHEATERS NEVER PROSPER.

  10. Too bad they never SB121 PFAS USE & REMEDIATION; FIRE/WATER SAFETY this year either. Back to square one again next year. Stuck in referrals to SENATE RESOURCES committee and FINANCE committee 4/7/22. Senate Bill 121 and its companion bill House Bill 171 [stuck in HOUSE RESOURCES committee and FINANCE committee 4/12/22] would do the bare minimum to protect Alaskans’ drinking water and ensure the toxic firefighting foams [that contained PFAS] aren’t widely used in the state any longer.

    Until the PFD formula based on *statutory 5 year rolling average from the Permanant Fund earnings is put into the constituion (investments & stocks go up in value, we get more money, investments & stocks tank, we all get little or no money in the form of a check.) The PFD shall not based on the price of oil, POMV or Legislator whims to take from all us the majority of the money and leave us proverbial crumbs. No muss – no fuss. EZ PEASY.

    *AS 37.13.145(b); AS 37.13.140, AS 37.13.145, AS 37.13.145(c). AS 37.13.150 and AS 37.13.145(d)

  11. ” Greed and entitlement” – that’s rich, coming from the mouth of a spoiled and entitled trust fund baby!

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