Dunleavy to Legislature: Engage the public on any PFD change
Gov. Mike Dunleavy is no recluse, but he did make one rare appearance — at least for an Alaska chief executive.
On Wednesday, he addressed a legislative panel tasked with drafting Permanent Fund policy recommendations for the upcoming July 8 special session.
Dunleavy kicked off a daylong hearing featuring the working group comprised of four members each from the House and Senate. It’s an unusual seat for a governor to assume, but not unprecedented.
Govs. Jay Hammond, Sarah Palin and Bill Walker all appeared before a standing committee. Fittingly, Hammond faced the House Finance Committee on March 15, 1982 for a familiar topic — the Permanent Fund dividend.
Dunleavy has been steadfast on the Legislature forwarding an appropriation paying a dividend that adheres to a decades-old statute, or about $3,000 per eligible Alaskan this year.
But in the Anchorage hearing, Dunleavy avoided discussions on his preferred dividend size, instead re-stating other priorities associated with the Permanent Fund: public involvement.
“99% of the work we do in Juneau, the people of Alaska has basically said ‘you guys do it,'” Dunleavy said. “We’re too busy with our lives, we’re too busy with our jobs and that’s your role. But when it comes to something of this magnitude, that’s been around for decades, that impacts virtually every Alaskan, I think it behooves us to really think about engaging the people in a positive manner.”
The task force made up of for members from the House and Senate each also received briefings on the history of the Permanent Fund. It’s chaired by Sen. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, and Rep. Jennifer Johnston, R-Anchorage. Both are also on their chamber’s respective finance committees.
Bishop said Dunleavy’s appearance raises the working group’s profile.
“He’s lent us his team, his assets,” he said. “He’s been gracious in accepting our request going forward, despite of some of the things that were said in both chambers about this working group. I think he brings a lot of credence to this working group.”
Bishop and Johnston say they hope to have a report ready for the Legislature by the time they reconvene for a second special session in Wasilla.
Dunleavy has proposed three constitutional amendments, including one to enshrine the dividend into the constitution. Senate Joint Resolution 5 cleared the Senate State Affairs and Judiciary Committees and awaits action in the Senate Finance Committee. House Joint Resolution 6 remains in the House State Affairs Committee after having three hearings.
“I wish you nothing but the best. I wish you luck in working through this process,” Dunleavy said. “I know that once a final decision is made as to where we’re going to do with the PFD and the Permanent Fund. I think it opens up all kinds of avenues of possibilities for us all to work together to move Alaska forward.”
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