Today in the Legislature, the House was not able to muster a quorum to conduct business, leaving HB 3003 stranded and leaving the liberal majority scrambling for members.
The conservative caucus wasn’t going to budge and allow the cut-and-run liberals to force through an $1,100 Permanent Fund dividend.
Speaker Stutes had told the members she wanted the entire bill passed by Tuesday night.
Democrats milled around the House floor midday, waiting for something to happen. Finally, the session was “delayed to the call of the chair.” And then there was a “technical session,” a full admission that the House is in disorder.
Without the Minority, there was no Majority. Rep. Sara Rasmussen, who is a caucus of one, said she would get herself on a plane to Juneau right away. Rep. Chris Tuck has been working out in rural Alaska.
HB 3003 is the bill that has the unfinished work of the Legislature in it, including the Permanent Fund Dividend, which was once again set by the House Finance Committee at $1,100, less than one-third the statutory amount and less than half of what Gov. Mike Dunleavy had proposed with his 50-50 plan — $2,350.
But then, as the liberal majority caucused privately (minus a couple of members such as Rep. Chris Tuck and Rep. Geran Tarr, both who are somewhat on “the outs” with their caucus), a Dunleavy bomb dropped into the middle of the bill.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced that, subsequent to a judge’s decision on the Power Cost Equalization Fund being considered a protected endowment, all other funds that were considered appropriated before June 30 are being enacted by his administration.
That means the Houston Middle School, West Su road project, scholarships, and the WWAMI program to get more doctors educated are now funded and the agencies in charge of those projects may expend those funds.
The Dunleavy Administration made the decision based on the court’s Power Cost Equalization Fund decision and some budgeting nuances: All appropriations not vetoed before July 1 are valid appropriations and shall be implemented. Dunleavy instructed his staff to begin the process now.
“Alaska’s students who worked hard and excelled and chose to stay in Alaska deserve stability in their university education. Performance scholarship recipients and WWAMI students can rest assured the funding for their secondary education is secure,” said Dunleavy, in a statement.
Although much of this is in the budget weeds for Alaskans, the governor’s letter is good news for students and Alaskans because it removes all of the MatSu Valley projects, which were being held hostage by the liberal majority, from the equation.
And it also robs the liberal majority from some of its funding machinations for HB 3003. It’s going to have to go back to the drawing board.
Speaker Stutes cannot disagree with the governor without contradicting herself. She sent the governor a letter last week in which she said the appropriations should be implemented.
Now, the governor has taken her up on the offer.
The House Finance version of HB 3003 is far from acceptable to the conservative House Minority, which wants at least the 50-50 plan, if not the entire PFD, for Alaskans.