Alaska House majority proposes one-time $1,300 energy relief check
JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - As oil prices skyrocket, the Alaska House of Representatives is set to consider paying a one-time $1,300 energy relief check to all Alaskans, in addition to the Permanent Fund dividend.
The proposal comes from the bipartisan House majority coalition and is set to be part of budget debates. Rep. Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, said the roughly $900 million in funding for the rebate would come from the state’s general fund, which is set to receive a major boost from oil prices at over $100 a barrel.
If approved, the check would have the same requirements as the dividend for distribution, a spokesperson for the House majority coalition said.
The economic costs of COVID-19 are part of the reason for the proposed payment. Edgmon said costs for fuel could double for rural Alaska residents before the end of the year, which also justify the check.
In 2008, then-Gov. Sarah Palin successfully proposed a $1,200 energy rebate to help combat rising fuel costs. The bipartisan House majority coalition said this year’s energy relief check would be separate to the 2022 Permanent Fund dividend, which has yet to be decided as the budget moves through the Legislature.
Last year, the dividend check was just over $1,100. Edgmon said the House majority is still committed to not overdrawing the Permanent Fund.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy has urged legislators to pass his 50-50 dividend this year, which would pay a check worth roughly $2,500 to each eligible Alaskan. His office released a statement on Wednesday afternoon, saying that the governor has spent months arguing that high oil prices have only been benefiting state government coffers.
“The House Coalition announcement is better late than never, but the work is not yet done. I agree with former Gov. Hammond that the government should never take more from the Permanent Fund than is distributed to the people,” the statement said. “I am looking forward to continuing the discussions with legislators in the current session to provide Alaskans with a fair and equitable PFD in this and coming years following my 50-50 plan.”
Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, manages the operating budget in the Senate and has long been opposed to overdrawing the Permanent Fund to pay for larger dividend checks with concerns over the long-term viability of the fund. On Wednesday, he said that he was concerned about rising energy costs for Alaskans due to high oil prices.
“I like the concept, no doubt about it,” he said about the proposed energy relief check.
Stedman stressed that legislators will need to put an operating budget and capital budget together before he would commit to this check. And, he stressed that he still wants to see a major part of Alaska’s influx of new oil revenue put into state savings accounts as they have been depleted over a decade of deficit spending.
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