Wielechowski pre-files bill to repay reduced PFDs
An Anchorage state senator wants to repay Alaskans for Permanent Fund dividends that were reduced for three years under the state’s formula.
Bill Wielechowski’s proposal to pay an estimated $3,740 to eligible Alaskans is among 43 bills and resolutions filed Monday, in advance of the upcoming legislature, slated to start Jan. 15.
“Whether it’s done in a stand-alone bill or done through the budget — and ideally this would be done in the budget,” Wielechowski said of SB13. “This is to make sure we keep it moving along.”
The Anchorage Democrat also wants to enshrine the statutory formula in the constitution to avoid the recently spawned annual debate over how much dividends should be.
Dividends were one of the most politically charged campaign issues last year along with public safety and a balanced budget.
Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy advocated for a full dividend and restoration as well. He has a full dividend in his budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year.
Three years ago, former Gov. Bill Walker ignored the statutory formula for determining a dividend and reduced the sum by almost half through a line-item budget veto to $1,022.
The Legislature followed suit the next two years approving a payout of $1,100 in 2017 and $1,600 last year, amounts that survived Walker’s vetoes.
After Walker’s 2016 veto, Wielechowski sued the governor, challenging the governor’s veto power. The Alaska Supreme Court sided with Walker.
“They disagreed the legislature had to follow the statute, but the fact you still have the statute on the books that says these need to be paid,” Wielechowski said. “It’s just like you have a statute on the books that says the oil tax credits have to be paid and the state followed that.”
Wielechowski attempted a similar constitutional enshrinement last year, but it failed to get past the Senate Finance Committee.
“Enshrining the PFD removes the decision-making from politicians and places it in the hands of Alaskans,” he said. “I know the governor likes the idea. I don’t care if it’s my name or this has a Republicans name on these bills. Let’s just get it done.”
If SJR1 passes by two-thirds of each legislative chamber, it will go on the ballot for the 2020 election and voters get to decide whether dividend payouts should follow the statutory formula.
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