House speaker doubts support for Senate-approved permanent fund plan
House Speaker Mike Chenault says Gov. Bill Walker’s plan to trim dividends and use the permanent fund’s earnings for the state’s budget is lacking support in the House, despite its passage in the Senate Monday.
“At this point, I don’t believe the votes are there to pass it,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “You know, it’s not my job to go out and gather the support for the bill.”
The bill, currently sitting in the House Finance Committee, would set dividends at $1,000 for the next three years in order to make an annual draw — determined by the price of oil — from the fund’s earnings for state services.
The three minority members who sit on the committee have vowed not to touch the PFD until significant changes are made to the oil tax system. The caucus voted down a version of the reform compromise, House Bill 247, passed in the House Monday.
When asked whether he could support the permanent fund plan, Rep. Les Gara, a member of the finance committee, said, “It’s certainly nothing I’m jumping at right now, given how imbalanced it is. Great concerns about balance of the burden between low-wage earners and seniors, on the one hand, and the corporations who’ve hired lobbyists to make sure they don’t have to chip in.”
Rep. Paul Seaton, a member of the majority who helped shape a previous compromise on oil tax credits in the House, said he thinks the key to getting members on board with a permanent fund plan would be to skip payment on oil tax credits this year, and instead only put a minimum amount into the fund.
“I think it’s going to be very difficult for people to vote for taking $1,000,” he said, referring to the amount next year’s PFD would likely be reduced to under the bill. “We just had a fiscal note for this bill for $430 million, which is $600 per person in the state.”
The permanent fund proposal is scheduled for a hearing in the House Finance committee on Tuesday.
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