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Alaska House passes $1,100 PFD, governor says some funding isn’t there

The exterior of the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau, Alaska.
The exterior of the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau, Alaska.(KTUU)
Published: Aug. 31, 2021 at 12:10 PM AKDT|Updated: Aug. 31, 2021 at 12:11 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska House of Representatives passed a $1,100 Permanent Fund dividend on Tuesday.

The bill still needs to be approved by the Senate and be signed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy before checks go out to Alaskans.

A fund chosen to pay for over 40% of the House’s dividend is contentious. It comes from the Statutory Budget Reserve, a state savings account.

The governor’s office, citing new guidance from the Alaska attorney general, says that the account is empty because the Legislature failed to pass a procedural vote in June.

Key legislators in the House disagree. They cite a recent court decision on power cost equalization payments that suggests the fund should be kept full.

“I guess another court case could be happening,” said Rep. Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks. “I don’t know.”

The savings account was chosen to pay a large chunk of the dividend to avoid overdrawing the Permanent Fund. Taking more would violate a 5% annual draw limit set in Alaska statute.

Some legislators were frustrated the 1982 Permanent Fund dividend statute was ignored by the House. If followed, Alaskans would receive a roughly $3,800 dividend this year.

The House narrowly rejected paying a full statutory dividend on Monday. It also rejected a $2,350 dividend, following the governor‘s 50-50 PFD proposal.

Several members of the largely Democratic House majority caucus said the 2021 dividend could be increased if a comprehensive fiscal plan passes with new revenues.

House and Senate committees are starting hearings on a fiscal plan. That could include new revenues, a spending cap, changes to the dividend formula and budget cuts.

Legislators across the aisle don’t expect the state’s fiscal challenges to be resolved before the special session ends on Sept. 14.

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