Special Session III: Can Legislature finally fix PFD mess left by Gov. Bill Walker in 2016? - Must Read Alaska
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Wednesday, October 20, 2021
HomePoliticsSpecial Session III: Can Legislature finally fix PFD mess left by Gov. Bill Walker in 2016?

Special Session III: Can Legislature finally fix PFD mess left by Gov. Bill Walker in 2016?

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What the Legislature was unable to do in 90, 120, or 150 days, it hopes to do in the next special session of the year, which started Tuesday in Juneau.

The lawmakers are hoping for agreement, at the very least, on what the Permanent Fund dividend will be this year. Never in Alaska’s Permanent Fund history has the amount of the dividend been so tortured by politics, a condition created by former Gov. Bill Walker, who arbitrarily cut the dividend in half in 2016, and then by the Alaska Supreme Court, which upheld the argument that the dividend is not Alaskans’ share of oil royalty, but just another appropriation.

The fragile trust between the people and their government was broken at that moment, and the repercussions have been breaking down the ability for the Legislature to function ever since.

Finally, in 2021, the dividend appeared irrevocably broken. The amount set by the Legislature earlier this year was $525, so ludicrously low that the governor vetoed it and called lawmakers back into special session for a do-over.

This 30-day special session to fix the dividend follows weeks of the Legislature’s Comprehensive Fiscal Plan Working Group meeting — somewhat irregularly — to define the problem of the state budget and to suggest a path forward to the entire body. The eight members of the working group published on Monday their framework for a plan that would create a new long-term calculation for the Permanent Fund dividend, and also fund government.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has suggested plans, including taking the formula for the dividend and government into a 50-50 split, to the people of Alaska for a vote on whether to lock it into the constitution and take the annual, costly politics out of it.

Some of the recommendations from the working group include that 50-50 split, and whether there should be a constitutional guarantee of a dividend.

The group also said there needs to be $500-775 million in new revenue, and between $25-200 million in further budget cuts.

Typically, the first few days of special sessions in the Alaska Legislature are uneventful, and it’s expected that this one will be no different in that regard.

The governor has reduced the Legislature’s budget by the amount of what their per diem would be, but the Legislature will probably find a workaround for paying themselves, as they have in the past.

The plan outline released Monday:

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • It can only happen if all the players are on the same page and become bipartisan instead of the stab you in the back type of politics that’s gone on for the last several years. The state of Alaska PFD fund owes me about $10,000. They owe just about everyone that except for the latecomers. Bryce couldn’t do it on his own but like the senators in Roman times, they all got a chance to stick their knives in the back of the governor or emperor. No one on his team passed up the chance to figuratively do that. They chose to play politics and whatever else goes on with strange bedfellows. I’m not sure why alaskans continue to elect people like that. It makes me wonder about the people themselves.

  • If there ever was a year to skip the PFD it’s this year, and that should be part of the fiscal discussion. People are receiving federal money to not work. People with children now receive a guarantied minimum income from the federal government. Let’s consider postponing the 2021 PFD for a year and in the meantime take a large chunk of General Fund out of the state budget for 2022. There is at least $1 billion that can come out of the budget, leaving over $11 billion in GF, federal funding and money paid by Alaskans for ongoing fees and enterprise income. The economy is over-heated even without the PFD; let’s postpone it. Many Alaskans are leaving for higher paying jobs elsewhere and we don’t need to give them a check as they leave.

    • Guaranteed income? In what reality do you speak of in which someone can sustain themselves; Nay, themselves along with their children on a meager $250 to $300 once a month? Ridiculous terminology..

      • To be on unemployment your required to submit and document work search / applications every week. Failure to do so means immediate disqualification from the program. If someone is called for an interview and they do not take the job, or simply don’t show up the employer has a duty to report the individual in question. Random case audits are also held to find if the reported work search history is valid or completely fabricated.

    • What about the people’s property right and interest? You, in your personal and subject matter jurisdiction have these authorities to announce: “This year we won’t give them what is theirs because of our superior feelings on the matter.”

  • It’s already “fixed” just the way they want it!

  • It would require solidarity with their emoluments and the instructions, not of “their” hearts; but with literal property interests of those from whom they have received generous, enriching stipends through the present day. They are solid with beer, going for walks, pong, and hiding behind masks, masquerading as public nursing and other narratives hidden by quiscient low speak “media” lovely garments notwithstanding. I disagree.

  • Fix it? Hell, this is what they want.

    Never forget the two architects of this. Bill Walker for starting it, and Dunleavy the Cowardly Lion for pissing himself in Wasilla.

    We’ll be lucky to come out of this debacle without an income tax.

  • I think it’s a little unfair to blame Walker for the last twenty years of Republican legislators and administrations kicking the can down the road. Now, during the special session, they are giving it one last try before all the kool-aide is gone from the permanent fund bottle and they will have to figure out how to solve the mess they have got us all into.
    Walker may have done his part, but he also made an effort to build a budget that resembled something other that pandering to those who want their PFDs bigger and better, year after year, believing they are entitled to the meager left overs from the oil era.

    • It’d be nice if there wasn’t so much financial incentives built in to special sessions. Per diem is fat and life is good, especially when they are isolated from the constituents who might show up & hold their elected officials accountable.

      • Ner’ a truer word said brother bear.

  • “…a condition created by former Gov. Bill Walker, who arbitrarily cut the dividend in half in 2016, and then by the Alaska Supreme Court, which upheld the argument that the dividend is not Alaskans’ share of oil royalty, but just another appropriation.”
    Really Suzanne that is quite an over-simplification. I would say it was a condition created by the fiscal reality of vastly reduced income from the oil patch and raiding of our emergency savings account (the CBR). The Alaska Supreme Court made the correct decision (don’t forget it was UNANIMOUS). Walker’s action has been upheld by the Legislature acting on its own accord for the past 5 years.
    The real problem is Alaska citizens’ unrealistic expectations of their own government. Who can blame them because of the empty rhetoric and cowardly pandering of the politicians they elect?

  • Good description Suzanne. But don’t trust the RINOs & the Demrats to do anything right for the people with this one – it’s too much fund spending our money – especially if it “creates” (more nanny-state) jobs.

    • Never forget the hissy-fit.

  • Suzanne, the answer to your question is emphatically NO!

  • Mmmmm no, no they can’t.

  • This problem all started with Sean Oily Parnell and Sb21 brought to you by the 2 clowns sitting atop the executive branch. They gave away the farm to big oil for nuthin.

  • The pfd is made for us. The government made out of vanity. When influence of whoever say comments of leaving it out, for what? For who? For why? Since 1979, Alaska has for the most been kept for us pristine. The pfd has done more than formed bond with us who call this great land our home it has given us a moral obligation by our rights as trustees of this greatland. It is not community property as in a cheap divorce. If one more whiner complains about expense and taxes I think I know where this is from the corporations who use tax shelter to hide their obscene greed. A family with mouths to feed is not thinking of blaming others they are too tired from the labor they do everyday.

  • Legislators do not have authority to alter due process. They may only DECLARE it.

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