Alaska House votes to approve $2200 PFD
The Alaska House has added hundreds of millions of dollars to the state capital budget to bump up this year’s permanent fund dividend to around $2,200 a person– a sharp increase from last year’s check of $1,022.
Across party lines, the House on Wednesday voted 26-14 to add $700 million to allow for full payment of this year’s permanent fund dividend, as calculated by law. Earlier this year, both the House and Senate passed versions of a bill that would have called for smaller dividends.
But, House Rules Chair Gabrielle LeDoux (R-Anchorage) said if lawmakers are to gavel out without a complete fiscal plan this year, they shouldn’t pay for state services and oil tax credits on the backs of Alaskans.
“At this point, it looks like we may be leaving this building with only a budget– without a comprehensive plan including, most importantly, revisions to oil taxes. Without this amendment, we are headed to a budget which reduces the people’s PFD, and to this, Mr. Speaker, say not only ‘no’, but ‘hell no,’ and urge you to vote with me,” LeDoux said on the House floor.
As part of a budget deal to bridge the state fiscal gap, the House majority coalition has been calling for a broad-based tax, an overhaul of state oil taxes, modest budget cuts and spending permanent fund earnings.
A broad-based tax and the House version of oil tax changes have faced stiff opposition from the Senate.
The increase in funding isn’t final unless Governor Bill Walker and the Senate agree.
On Wednesday afternoon, Senate President, Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks) called the House move a distraction from budget negotiations.
“I think what it is, is it’s a kind of proof that they’re very desperate to get an income tax, they do this through inflating the budget to the point that we almost have to have an income tax to fund,” said Kelly. “I don’t think it’s much more complicated in that but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and continue to negotiate as long as we can.”
Lawmakers are currently in a special session called by Governor Bill Walker aimed at reaching agreement on a long-term fiscal plan. But, the legislature will reach the end of the session’s 30-day limit on Friday.
Last year, Walker vetoed dividends to $1,022 citing the state’s multi-billion dollar budget shortfall. In response to the House’s action Wednesday, Walker said:
“We are working toward a fiscal plan compromise that closes or reduces the $2.8 billion deficit, and ensuring government services continue after July 1st. In doing so, there will be actions that do not align with the full fiscal plan I proposed. In the coming days, and weeks, if necessary, my team and I will continue to work with the House and Senate toward a compromise plan and passage of a budget.”
The House on Wednesday also approved an additional $8 million for the state’s revenue-sharing program, which benefits municipalities across the state.