Sen. Bill Wielechowski is taking his lawsuit over Gov. Bill Walker’s reduction to this year’s Permanent Fund dividend checks to the Alaska Supreme Court.
Wielechowski filed the appeal Tuesday, along with former legislators Rick Halford and Clem Tillion, after a superior court judge ruled against the three last month.
The Anchorage Democrat argues the money Walker vetoed from the dividend program in June — which reduced checks from $2,052 to $1,022 — shouldn’t have been in the budget to begin with, and therefore never subject to the governor’s action. Wielechowski cites Alaska law, which says the Permanent Fund Corp. is supposed to transfer 50 percent of the income available in the Permanent Fund earnings account to the dividend fund.
But Superior Court Judge William Morse disagreed, concluding in November that since the Legislature made the appropriation in its annual budget bill it was subject to a governor’s veto.
“The legislature made this appropriation. The governor exercised his constitutional authority to reduce the budget item in the appropriation. The legislature had the authority to override the veto. It did not do that,” Morse wrote in his final judgement of the Bill Wielechowski, Rick Halford and Clim Tillion v. State of Alaska and the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. case.
Wielechowski said he’s had discussions with the court about expediting the lawsuit at the state Supreme Court level, but that the court was not inclined to do so, adding that a hearing before the entire Supreme Court won’t likely happen until April or May.
Correction: An earlier version of this report gave an incorrect amount for the original sum of each PFD check. This has been corrected.