NOT ENOUGH MEMBERS PRESENT
Today’s vote was a bust in the Senate for SB 1002, the bill that would have set the Permanent Fund dividend for this year at $1,600, the same as last year, or even $3,000, the amount it was amended to on the Senate floor.
Sen. Shelley Hughes offered the amendment to make the dividend whole, and her amendment passed, 10-8, increasing the dividend to $3,000, the amount that it would be if the Legislature followed the statutory formula.
Then the bill, as amended, went for the vote of the body, but even winning 10-8 there were not enough senators in the chamber. The Senate needed 11 votes to pass a bill. Both Sens. Tom Begich and Mike Shower were excused.
Shower announced last week he had to return to his job as pilot as he was out of leave time. He is scheduled to return on Friday. The Senate can then rescind its vote and take it up again.
The Legislature has been in special session since May 16 and has yet to pass an operating budget, capital budget, Mental Health budget, the Permanent Fund dividend amount, and has also not included fiscal year 2020 education funding in the budget — that item is heading for a lawsuit against the governor, who insists that the Legislature must appropriate the funds in order for him to distribute them.
Meanwhile, Gov. Michael Dunleavy said earlier this year that the dividend should be $3,000 and he offered a constitutional amendment to the Legislature that would be voted on by the people, setting the formula permanently and removing it from becoming a political football.
The vote failure in the Senate prompted Speaker Bryce Edgmon to take advantage of the situation and say it wasn’t the House Majority’s fault that there is not PFD.
“Today’s vote in the Senate perfectly illustrates why an operating budget has not yet been enacted: debate over the amount of year’s Permanent Fund Dividend is consuming the Legislature. This is why we believe the Legislature should first pass a responsible budget to provide students, elders, and business leaders certainty in the critical services they rely on. Then we can focus on the many important questions surrounding the future of the Permanent Fund,” Edgmon said.
House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt took a more pointed approach, poking back at Edgmon:
“Two months ago, we offered multiple amendments during the budget process that would have ensured that we would avoid costly special sessions. Those amendments were not taken up. Instead, we still stand without an operating budget, a capital budget, a mental health budget, and K-12 education funding,” he said. “The House Majority’s refusal to discuss what’s best for Alaska is doing long-term damage. It is well past time for the 24-member House Majority to pass a dividend, an operating budget, and fund education, as is required by the Constitution.”
House Finance Co-Chair Tammie Wilson said today on Facebook that she supports a full dividend: “I made an effort to bring the discussion on whether or not it was time to look at the formula. The answer was basically no. So until the formula is changed, I will be voting yes on what is currently in law,” she wrote, in response to public criticism of her HB 1002.
There are 11 days left of the special session.