Today: Spending, PFD bill heads to governor - Must Read Alaska
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Tuesday, August 20, 2019
HomePoliticsToday: Spending, PFD bill heads to governor

Today: Spending, PFD bill heads to governor

A bill that started out as a Permanent Fund dividend bill became an omnibus spending package in the Legislature, with more than $300 million in what were essentially veto overrides — a slap back at Gov. Michael Dunleavy by the controlling Democrats and moderate Republicans in the House and Senate.

It will head to the governor’s desk today. Dunleavy can sign HB 2001, reject it, or use a selective red pen to trim it.

All three of those actions come with significant political risk: Dunleavy ran on balancing the state budget and ensuring Alaskans get the statutorily established amount in their Permanent Fund dividends, which is $3,000. HB 2001 only gives Alaskans $1,600.

Dunleavy has 20 days to make his decision on HB 2001, after which the Legislature can call itself into Special Session to override any vetoes — if it can find the votes necessary. It needs 40 members to agree to a special session and 45 votes to override vetoes.

Dunleavy said that he will not call the Legislature back into an immediate special session. Senate President Cathy Giessel and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon have requested one to tackle a restructuring of the Permanent Fund dividend formula going forward. They and many other legislators feel that the current formula is unsustainable, and that state programs must be prioritized over dividends. 

As for the Capital Budget, Dunleavy plans on signing SB 2002 this week. That bill has non-capital spending in it as well as road projects. Programs not previously funded by the Legislature include the Alaska Performance Scholarship, the WWAMI medical education program, power cost equalization funds (energy subsidies) for rural communities, and the state’s ability to draw in more than $1 billion in federal infrastructure dollars.

Dunleavy may use his line-item veto on the Capital Budget: “While I intend to sign SB2002, I will exercise my line-item veto authority where necessary,” he said last week. 

Dunleavy and his team have been in talks with the University of Alaska Board of Regents to look at an additional $40 million in transition funds to allow the university system to wean itself off of the enormous state subsidies that many feel are unsustainable for Alaska going forward.

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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

  • The Gov. would do well to remember why he was elected to office. He needs to veto this entire bill and make it clear that a fully-funded PFD and a path to a balanced budget are non-negotiable.

    At the same time, voters must pressure the weak-kneed Republicans in the legislature to work with the Gov. I am sick and tired of being lied to by legislators who run as Republicans and then become turncoats when they get to Juneau.

    This is a time for choosing in our state. We are at a tipping point so failure to make our voices heard is not an option. You can be sure the unions and the big-government crowd will be out in force trying to make the Gov. cave.

    He needs to know we have his back. Let’s flood his office with messages of support.

    • Mike Dunleavy has worked tirelessly to get funding for a full PFD based on the existing statutory formula. By his efforts, the funding for the PFD is up to $1,600. Anyone arguing that the Governor zero out the short PFD is thinking crazy. Take the $1,600 as a down payment and ask the Governor to keep working for balance.
      Mike Dunleavy is working hard to get a constitutional resolution passed to guarantee payment of the PFD forever. That’s the real prize here, not a short fundedPFD this year. He’s still working for a full PFD this year but don’t take your eye off the big issue which is a constitutional amendment the citizens can vote on. Dunleavy hasn’t. He deserves credit for focusing on the big picture here

      • Joe, Perhaps you missed the part of the article where representatives are aiming to change pfd formula for the future budgets. If governor Dunleavy caves this year things will be rewritten so alaskans still won’t see full pfd payments in the future.

        • Mr. Woodward: has Do you want a decent formula embedded in the constitution that pays a guaranteed PFD to eligible Alaskans forever or are you content to keep yapping about the past?
          The Governor is working for full constitutional protection of the PFD. Me too.
          What are you talking about when you state the Governor is caving in? To what? To whom? How so?
          What’s your plan for permanent protection of the PFD???

  • Here’s the thing …. This bill is a bait and switch. The House majority and the posers in the Senate I want us to be satisfied with a $1,600 PFD with a promise of 1400 dollars in the spring contingent on we let them permanently cut any chances of us getting a PFD full payout in the future. I’m not sure why we would do that. They’re like… You want a $3,000 PFD? Fine we will give you that but you’ll never get one again once we change the formula. Let’s visit what has changed with UAA. They are only graduating 8% other students in a four-year program and only 31% of the students if they stick around for almost twice as long. All the while they are costing us $52,000 per student per year just to keep the lights on and the fat cats living up on the hillside. If we as alaskans I fine with and 8% graduation rate then by all means ask our governor to sign the bill. But if you want better for alaskans then ask the legislators to come up with a different plan then one that steals our natural resources royalty. Cutting the PFD harms lower-income people simply by taking money out of their pocket and food off their table. This in turn hurts the economy because folks are spending that money to go to town to shop and buy school clothes, food and any other thing they have to do. This also hurts our Bush pilots, people who we rely on for our needed services. This PFD cut is a bad idea because it hurts almost everyone for the sake of some much-needed social programs. We used to have a state sales tax before the oil flowed in. I challenge the House majority to find a better way to pay the state’s bills and expenditures than stealing from its own people. And if they can’t do that, then we the voters will find someone who can.

  • A note to the Editor: It might be useful to republish the numbers about the administrative and support expenses of the University if Alaska — the ones that show that the UA spends more on admin and support than instruction. And the shocking levels of compensation are also relevant. The public needs to recognize that effectively ALL of the Governor’s cuts could be taken against the University bureaucracy without touching instruction.

    • Absolutely and well said. I for one know what a budget is and no matter how large or small the budget, PRIORITIZING needs vs. wants. I’m sorry if it offends the liberal Dems and rino’s but we finally have a governor that has a clue, he knows the needs of both the state and Alaskans. He was elected to cut the fat while still protecting the statutory PFD, an account which should have no access by legislators or the governor (like Walker did) without the vote of the people. Thus the reason it was never part of the general fund! Stand fast Governor DunLeavy, you are on track to keep Alaska and Alaskans financally responsible.

  • It pains me to write this, but no matter how they try to spin it or explain it, anything but a full PFD payout will equal no second term for Mike Dunleavy.

  • But if you cut the research you cut the ability to bring in $5-6 for every $1 spent. That does not make sense or cents. The research provides valuable info to the state on our mining development, road structure on permafrost and melting permafrost, and other very practical applications. Read state geologists Mark Myer and Paul Metz. The university is restructuring and cutting expenses—no question that was needed. Dunleavy’s proposal would kill it—and the local economy.

    • This whole fiasco at UAA has been going on for years and nobody had the guts to stand up to the wasteful spending until our current governor stepped in. we had plenty of money and nobody gave a crap at least didn’t care enough to put it out there because it was the right thing to do and risk being re-elected. Make no mistake, legislative heads are going to roll come election day my fault your fault nobody’s fault heads are going to roll and that is speaking metaphorically of course.

    • I respectfully disagree with your last point: The University wasn’t making any changes or restructuring in any meaningful way until last week, when the Regents faced the reality of the Governor’s vetos. Alaska needs seventeen college campuses as much as a walrus needs wings.

      • 17 campuses is blatant waste! Much of what they off at the satellite campuses can be fully accessed via on-line, and I assume after spending tons of money to get internet access to remote communities there is no excuse for 17 staffed campuses.

      • JMark……,UAF already teaches about flying cows and their flatulances…..a cause of climate change….of course.

  • Red pen time . Sorry but greg, jmark , and Damon are right.
    Mary needs to accept that the land grant funded university needs to be cleaned up and reset to do their job to produce the true product they are charged with.
    Quality educated students where at least 75% are job ready in 4years.

  • Mary, I love you, but I have addressed your concerns before. The UA is an empty well for more climate studies. Every facet of research at UA has something to do with finding evidence of anthropogenic climate change caused by fossil fuel usage. Everything! The UA has become programmed to advance this theory as postulation. Its rooted in biological, oceanographic, engineering, atmospheric, etc. etc….research studies. The mission of all UA research is to adopt any linkage to man-caused climate change. Having said this, why are you concerned about losing federal money when that money is only going to be spent on furthering research to detect ANY evidence of climate change, whether the data is falsified, contrived, doctored-up etc? Dunleavy doesn’t want those funds. We Alaskans want the truth, not more political garbage science. In closing, if UA was so concerned about fossil fuel damage to the atmosphere, why did they build a new $275 million coal-fired power plant that is built to last for 75 years? AND sign decades long contracts with Usibelli Coal to provide stinky subbituminous coal? Answer: because Joe Usibelli gives money to the UA. And, Joe Usibelli wants Dunleavy gone. Come on, Mary. You can surely see through all of this????

    • Yes, Marla. Joe Usibelli has spoken out about Dunleavy’s governorship. His alignment and loyalty to the UA is only about one thing: state dollars for long-term coal contracts. $$$$$. Thanks, Mr. Usibelli for stealing our money and dirtying our air.

    • Flat Earth Society charter member.

      • And so is Marla.

  • Veto…the RINOs who were in hiding have been identified. It is now about 2020 and getting true conservatives into the Legislature. Giesel and her band of weasels have got to go!

    • Dim bulb comment.

      • See response to Mark R., above.

      • Watch yourself, Joe. Mongo is the 800lb gorilla in this room.

        • Yeah, right. But of course he’s not in any room inhabited by anyone with a say on how to get this issue resolved.
          Mingo is yet another citizen with an outsized opinion on which he is clueless.
          Drive on……………

  • Oh they’re gone all right. Maybe we can bag a few others that have gone on record with a favorable accounting of PFD theft.

  • Plz us the PFD to pay off debt. You make money by paying off your loan sooner.

  • The term “moderate” in the Alaska Legislature = not having the balls to make the ethical decisions to vote for what will better the entire State versus their own special interest groups with overzealous programs that do not work. Unfortunately the Governor is being forced to look like the “bad guy” thanks to the AK Legislature, since he is now forced at the last minute to stand strong and make the hard cuts, so that Alaska can thrive. Thriving DOES NOT mean that the program free-bees stay in place… it means that everyone needs to be responsible and accountable for themselves, which will be the only way Alaska will move forward. I support the Governor for the cuts.

    • Yessir Colleen, the Alaska Legislature held meetings with Alaskans all over the State and then made their own “ethical” decisions, relative to Dunleavy’s budget cuts, and you think they have been influenced by special interest groups. Heheh!
      And of course this is all making the Governor look like the “bad guy.”
      He can do whatever he wants at the last minute, of course, but if he does continue to make those “hard cuts” the real last minute standing strong will be done by Legislature in their attempts at overriding those cuts. Dunleavy has made his own bed and has made his own “looking like the bad guy” choice.

  • If you think these cuts are bad, wait until next year! Alaska will be completely broken by then and the unprepared whiners such as yourself will have nothing! Better save that PFD!

    • You evidently aren’t paying attention to Recall Dunleavy-next year it well may be a new Gov. And whose whining-things are starting to look up after a dark period until Rep. Knopp stepped up and saved the State. Heheh!
      The PFD money is being saved.

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