Gov. Mike Dunleavy urges legislators to approve at least a $3,700 PFD
JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - Gov. Mike Dunleavy is urging the Alaska Legislature to approve a “substantial” Permanent Fund dividend that is much larger than has been paid in recent years.
The governor wants legislators to approve a 50-50 dividend for this year at roughly $2,500. He also wants them to pay the remainder of a 50-50 dividend for last year. When added together, both checks would be over $3,700.
Dunleavy said that dividend figure should be the minimum this year. He wants the Legislature to approve “as large a PFD as possible” with soaring inflation and high fuel prices. But, many in the Legislature have a different opinion of the size of the PFD and what to do with Alaska’s unexpected oil revenue.
The House of Representatives passed an operating budget last month with a roughly $1,250 dividend and a separate, one-time energy relief check at $1,300. House Speaker Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, suggested on Thursday that that would be the ceiling for the dividend that could be supported by her bipartisan caucus.
“That’s $2,500,” she said. “That’s nothing to sneeze at.”
Stutes also said that paying a larger PFD this year would set a precedent that Alaskans would expect to be followed in the future. Her caucus has largely supported a long-term 75-25 split for a new dividend formula.
The Senate’s operating budget now has a 50-50 dividend in it at just over $2,500. Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, suggested that dividend size would be the floor for the Senate.
“Our goal is to satisfy Alaskans with a reasonable PFD,” he said.
The Senate is also debating a bill that would rewrite the dividend formula statute for the long-term. That debate is expected to take place on the Senate floor next week.
At current oil prices over $100 a barrel, legislators are expecting to see a surplus well over $3 billion. There is broad agreement that a big chunk of that money should be used to replenish state savings accounts that have been depleted over a decade of deficit spending.
There are also debates about increasing school funding and funding K-12 education a year ahead of time. Dunleavy reiterated a threat on Thursday during a press conference to veto any school funding increases unless a comprehensive reading bill also passes.
Stutes said the governor’s decision on whether to veto extra school funding would be his to make.
“Personally, I’m speaking for myself, I don’t do well with threats,” she said.
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