A bill to bring back the part of Permanent Fund Dividend checks Gov. Bill Walker vetoed from the budget in 2016 got a first hearing in Juneau Tuesday. If it gets to the Senate floor, it will need the support of at least 11 senators to pass, which could prove challenging.

Last year, 14 Alaska senators approved a measure authored by Walker that capped dividends at $1,000. It later died in the House, so Walker used his veto authority to reduce checks to $1,022, from an original $2,052.

Now, at least one of those same senators is already convinced of the PFD restoration proposal. Anchorage Sen. Cathy Giessel voted to cut checks last year, under Senate Bill 128, but now supports undoing Walker’s action.

“It’s a question of policy and process,” Giessel said, explaining that it’s not what Walker did in capping PFD checks, it’s how he did it that she thinks is wrong. “I went door to door this last session, there was significant anger on the part of citizens that the governor would act unilaterally like this. I believe other legislators, as they went door to door heard the same thing.”

Giessel is a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 1, authored by Sen. Mike Dunleavy. Regardless of whether SB 1 passes, Giessel said she will likely support a proposal introduced by Walker again this year to use the Permanent Fund’s earnings as a solution to the state’s budget woes — and which sets dividend checks at $1,000 for the next three years.

“Most likely I would support it,” Giessel said of the measure. “But you know, you never know until you actually see the wording.”

Senators Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer; Tom Begich, D-Anchorage; David Wilson, R-Wasilla; and Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, are also co-sponsors of the bill.

The Senate State Affairs Committee will take public testimony on SB 1 on Saturday morning at 10 a.m.

KTVA 11’s Liz Raines can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.

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