COMMITTEE ALSO MOVES TO BEEF UP PERMANENT FUND CORPUS
The Alaska Senate Finance Committee approved amendments boosting this year’s Permanent Fund dividend to about $3,000 and transferring $12 billion from the Permanent Fund’s Earnings Reserve Account into the fund’s constitutionally protected corpus. The Permanent Fund Earning Reserve Account currently has more than $18.6 billion.
“We must take effective action to protect the Permanent Fund,” said Sen. Bert Stedman, who co-chairs of Senate Finance Committee. “Today’s proposals recommend paying the full, statutory dividend amount this year, locking up $12 billion into a vault and throwing the keys away.”
Including a $3,000 dividend in the Senate’s version of the budget creates the possibility for a House and Senate conference committee to negotiate up to the full, statutory dividend amount. Gov. Michael Dunleavy has said the state must return to the statutorily defined Permanent Fund dividend to avoid the mistakes of the past, which made the dividend a political football.
The Alaska Permanent Fund currently has about $65 billion in assets. The $18.6 billion in the earnings reserve account can be spent by the Legislature with a simple majority vote. The amendment adopted by the Senate Finance Committee today would move $12 billion from the earnings reserve into the corpus, which cannot be accessed without changing the Alaska Constitution.
“This amendment moves $12 billion into the Permanent Fund’s corpus, protecting those funds for future generations,” said Senator Natasha von Imhof, co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “It imposes a spending cap on state government and forces the conversation on a sustainable dividend calculation.”
Once the operating budget is moved out of the Senate Finance Committee, it will be considered by the full Senate.
The House has approved a budget that leaves about $1,200 for the Permanent Fund dividend. The differences between the House and Senate budget are worked out in conference committee.
“The Permanent Fund is not for us to squander,” Sen. Stedman added. “Our generation has been very fortunate over our working lifetime with the oil boom. We need to ensure this fund is available for our grandchildren and great grandchildren.”