Gov. Mike Dunleavy to sign ‘functional’ budget with roughly $3,200 in cash payments

Gov. Mike Dunleavy to sign ‘functional’ budget with roughly $3,200 in cash payments
Published: May. 19, 2022 at 7:37 PM AKDT
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - Gov. Mike Dunleavy will sign the budget passed by the Alaska Legislature in the final hours of the legislative session on Wednesday. It is set to deliver a roughly $3,200 check to eligible Alaskans this year.

Dunleavy said he still needs to look at the budget in detail before announcing any line-item veto decisions. After calling last year’s budget “defective” due to a failed procedural vote that risked a state government shutdown, he said this year’s state spending plan is “functional” during a Thursday press conference.

Across the aisle, legislative leaders are counting their wins from the budget. There are big investments in infrastructure projects, like the Port of Alaska and the Port of Nome. School districts are set to see a one-time cash injection, and state savings accounts are set to be replenished after a decade of deficit spending.

House Speaker Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, said she didn’t expect the governor would cut much from the budget with his veto pen because she says it’s a “very solid” and “reasonable” budget.

The size of cash payments received by Alaskans was again controversial. A late-night vote, one hour before the session ended, saw the House of Representatives fall one vote short of drawing from a savings account to pay for half of a planned $1,300 energy relief check. That meant the cash payments set to be received by Alaskans this year dropped by $650.

Rep. Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, called the decision to use a savings account to fund half of the energy rebate “a dog and pony show.” She said she wanted to see a full $4,200 full statutory dividend. Anchorage Democratic Sen. Tom Begich echoed those sentiments and said a $3,800 check would have provided Alaskans with a “modicum” of financial relief during a period of high inflation and high energy prices.

Dunleavy also said he wanted a full PFD this year, but he expected that the votes wouldn’t change if he called legislators back for a special session. The governor argued that the $3,200 check, split between a 50-50 dividend and a $650 energy rebate, would make a difference for Alaskans.

The Permanent Fund dividend is typically disbursed in October. Dunleavy said he hadn’t decided if it would go out earlier this year as it did two years ago.

Legislative leaders say a short special session may be needed later in the year to decide how federal infrastructure funding is spent, but there are no concrete plans on when one would be held or if one is necessary. For now, the state Capitol is quiet after the second regular session of the 32nd Alaska Legislature adjourned late on Wednesday night.

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