New version of permanent fund bill sets PFD at $1,500
Last updated at 5:49 p.m. on Thursday, June 16
A new compromise version of Gov. Bill Walker’s Senate Bill 128 raises the proposed Permanent Fund Dividend amount from the previously proposed $1,000 for the next three years to $1,500 for this fall and next year.
On Thursday, the new proposal was introduced in the House Finance Committee, which took a 45-minute “at ease” to allow committee members to go over the changes. The changes also allow for dividends larger than $1,500 if oil and gas production taxes exceed $2.3 billion, up to $2,000 per dividend.
“We were compromising all day yesterday and one of the things that became very clear was that the biggest concern was the size of the dividend checks,” Rep. Steve Thompson, co-chair of the House Finance Committee, told KTVA. “So we compromised back to $1,500 for two years in a row. That seemed to be something that was acceptable.”
Thompson said the bill was just one vote shy of the necessary six to leave the House Finance Committee Thursday afternoon and be sent to the House floor. The committee adjourned until 9 a.m. Friday.
Revenue Commissioner Randall Hoffbeck said even this new version of the bill doesn’t have 21 votes to pass on the House floor.
After Thursday’s committee meeting, some members told KTVA Walker should rethink his strategy on the bill.
“If the governor feels that it is that vital, and that important, he has the red pen in his hand, he’s got a budget that next week he can look at and determine if he wants to line-item veto a portion or all of this coming year’s dividend,” said Rep. Lance Pruitt, who identified himself as a solid “no” vote on the bill. “He needs to think about the tools in his tool belt instead of continuing to try to force a discussion on the Legislature that I think is very clear they’ve determined where they are, at least at this point in time.”
Rep. David Guttenberg said he also opposes the bill, without further scaling back oil tax credits and passage of other tax proposals originally included in the governor’s plan.
“I’m a supporter of the governor, I want him to succeed,” Guttenberg said. “But where you are now in this session, I think the best thing we could do, and I hate to say this, but is to finish this session, have the governor call us in with a special session that’s very focused on just a couple of things.”
Thompson said he remains hopeful that enough votes can emerge to move the bill out of the Finance Committee and onto the House floor for a vote by Saturday.
“We have a bill now that I think is something that is good for Alaska,” Thompson said. “That’s the problem, if we don’t do something, next year we’re going to have a harder time. We’re gonna have a bigger deficit, we’re gonna have more of the savings drained. That’s not acceptable, we can’t do that. We have to do what’s right for Alaska.”
If passed and signed by the governor, the bill would take effect immediately, affecting PFDs this October.
This is a developing story, please check back for updates as they become available.
KTVA 11’s Liz Raines contributed to this report.
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