The bill to fund the Permanent Fund dividend may have the governor’s name on it, but it’s not his bill anymore. HB3003 pays Alaskans less than one third of the legal amount for their annual dividend, as set by Alaska Statute.
The $1,100 PFD is also not the compromise suggested by the governor — the 50-50 plan, which would come with a constitutional amendment that voters would decide on: Should the formula for the PFD be placed in the Alaska Constitution – yes or no?
There’s a problem with it, and it all comes down to color of money. The Legislature has deviated from past law that said the Permanent Fund dividend source was the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve Account that was transferred into dividend fund.
This year, the House majority is re-upping what passed two months ago, when the dividend is paid from different monies. One is general fund, not the ERA, and the other is the Statutory Budget Reserve.
Here’s where it gets tough: The money the House is trying to use to pay the dividend — the SBR– is not there. Money available in the SBR in June was vetoed by the governor. On June 30, any money not vetoed in the SBR was swept in to the Constitutional Budget Reserve. So the money the House is using for the dividend is not in one of the funds it’s using.
Barring anything else, such as a judge’s order, the check will bounce.
The money available for the dividend in the General Fund is only about $600 per dividend recipient, a fact pointed out by Rep. David Eastman. The vote was a gaslighting operation, to try to make this the governor’s fault if the PFD is only $600.
This is coming at time when the Permanent Fund is just shy of $83 billion.
On Monday, a proper solution for the permanent fund dividend — paying a full PFD as established by Statute — failed narrowly.
As for the Fiscal Plan Working Group, which was supposed to come up with a plan going forward, it saw its suggestions to allow the people of Alaska to vote on a new PFD formula ignored.
The 50-50 plan, as it is called, was accepted by many “full PFD’ legislators as their compromise.
“I thought it was our first step toward compromise. It was our step for those who might not be a full PFD person. It was a huge compromise,” said Rep. Kevin McCabe of Big Lake.
“There’s no impetus to put the PFD into a constitutional amendment. Leadership has said it will not happen,” he said. “Many of us thought it might be good. Many of us thought it might be bad. There was a path forward. The path has to start with putting it out to the voters. We have seen none of that. In fact, we have heard, ‘Don’t even try.'”
“The bill doesn’t contain a PFD. It’s not a Permanent Fund dividend. It’s just a check from the SBR and the General Fund. It’s not what we were sent down here to do. I’ll be voting no,” said Rep. Chris Kurka of Wasilla.
Rep. Adam Wool, a Democrat representing Fairbanks argued that the money is there. “I guess another court case might be happening, I don’t know,” he said. “This Permanent Fund needs to last infinitely, oil will not last infinitely,” he said, and mentioned global warming as a problem for oil in Alaska.