Congratulations to this year’s Legislature for getting its work done on deadline.

As I said two weeks ago, getting to the end of session proved to be easier once lawmakers were left with no option but to tap the Permanent Fund to pay for state services for the first time.

What they did not do was adopt a formula to determine future dividends, which means the amount of the dividend moving forward will be a political bargaining chip.

I expect you can look forward to smaller dividends in non-election years, and like this year, a larger dividend when your local lawmaker is up for reelection.

The rush to adjournment always brings with it some surprises. And this year was no exception.

On the positive side, the Statewide Smoke-Free Workplace ban was finally released and passed easily, but not before a provision was tucked into the bill allowing communities to opt out.

And for reasons that are a mystery to me, the Knik Arm Bridge got a couple of million dollars. Not bad for a project that no longer exists! Part of that money came from the Senate’s cuts to Medicaid funding. 

The Senate Majority, led by Republicans, wanted to force Alaskans who were part of the Medicaid expansion to have to work or volunteer to get their healthcare. The House Majority, however, led by Democrats, would not even give the bill a hearing.

In the end, lawmakers shorted the program by $20 million through June, though all it means is that medical providers will simply have to wait longer to be paid.

I’m not really sure of the message they’re trying to send.

The Senate also ran out of time to pass a mandatory spending cap. This is one of those one-size-fits-all bills written by a national conservative think tank, designed to make you think your lawmakers are serious about spending.

But it’s really nothing but a gimmick.

Any lawmaker who feels the need to set a spending cap likely also needs reminders to brush their teeth or tie their shoes. Setting a budget is about more than putting an arbitrary number on a wall.

And this year, lawmakers did increase spending after apparently realizing previous cuts indeed did more harm than good.

With session over, the clock now starts on election season.

Two things to prepare for: politicians who promise to cut the budget and restore a full dividend.

Here’s hoping you do your own Reality Check.

John's opinions are his own and are not necessarily those of Denali Media or its employees.

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