Gov. Dunleavy proposes PFD payback over three years

Published: Jan. 16, 2019 at 12:25 PM AKST
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Gov. Mike Dunleavy has released a proposal that would pay out money cut from the previous three Permanent Fund Dividend checks over a period of three years.

If adopted, Senate Bill 24 and Senate Bill 23, filed Wednesday by the Senate Rules committee at the request of the governor, would see payments added to the annual dividend checks of each eligible Alaskan of $1,061 in 2019, $1,289 in 2020 and $1,328 in 2021.

In December,

that, if passed in its current form, would pay a 2019 PFD of around $3,157 per eligible Alaskan based on the number of payouts from 2017. The addition of an extra $1,061 was not part of that figure.

In an afternoon press conference Wednesday, Dunleavy said the legislature had been ignoring its own laws by not paying a full dividend over the last three years, as well as the will of Alaska voters.

If his proposal is adopted, he said the additional money paid out to eligible Alaskans would give a big financial bump across the state.

Department of Revenue Commissioner Bruce Tangenan fielded questions with the governor and said the 2019 PFD would be seen separately from the $1.6 billion deficit projected for the state.

He said there was $60.4 billion in the Permanent Fund and $16.6 billion in the Earnings Reserve Account used for dividend payouts.

The incoming commissioner said Alaskans could expect a PFD of around $3,000 with the addition of $1,061 if the governor's legislation is passed.

Under Dunleavy's proposal, the payment of additional PFD money would be contingent on the person having received dividends between 2016 and 2018.

Across the Capitol, many lawmakers said they would need to review the legislation before commenting.

“Protecting the Permanent Fund and dividend is a top priority of the Senate Majority. The governor’s bills will receive a fair hearing in the Senate,” wrote Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, in a statement.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, a longtime advocate for paying back the reduced dividend, said he didn't understand why the figure wasn't paid in one lump sum.

Wielechowski has introduced his own legislation that would pay back the dividend and another bill that would enshrine the PFD in the state's constitution.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, pre-filed similar legislation that would set aside 40 percent of a draw from the Earnings Reserve Account for essential government services, 40 percent for a dividend, and 20 percent for inflation-proofing.

On Monday, Begich said enshrining the PFD in the constitution would stop it from being used as a "political football."

Dunleavy made paying a full dividend and paying back past reduced dividend checks a central promise of his 2018 gubernatorial campaign.

According to bill filed, the funds would be drawn from the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve Account and deposited into the Dividend Fund.

The governor proposes that the additional money paid out "may not contribute to the calculation for the 2019, 2020, or 2021 dividends."

Dunleavy said after the press conference that he expected "vigorous" debate among lawmakers as to how, and if, the reduced dividend figures should be paid back.