House girding for another PFD debate
Lawmakers are preparing for another debate on the size of the Permanent Fund dividend Thursday morning.
The House Finance Committee will continue hearing House Bill 2003 at 9 a.m. The House could take a vote if it passes out of committee.
It’s a new bill, but the content remains the same.
On Wednesday the House removed the PFD language from HB2001 so it could focus on a budget bill that addresses restoring significant portions of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s $444 million in vetoes.
That passed, 21-10, along caucus lines, leaving HB2003 for a dividend vote, perhaps later Thursday.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy has remained firm on his request for a $3,000 dividend, a sum reflecting a statutory formula that’s been ignored for the last three years. But he does not have the required 21 votes from the House nor 11 votes in the Senate.
House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, says legislative leaders are floating a proposal that would require another special session: Pay $1,600, then another $1,400 after the Legislature agrees on a new formula the state can sustain in its current and chronic low oil price environment.
“The reason we’re still down here is, I think it’s evident to everyone who's watching the process or who's down here, it's because we can’t get past the fact is that the governor is insisting on a $3,000 dividend — on his terms,” Edgmon said.
House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, says he doesn’t support a second payment contingent on a new law.
“It’s not really truly an open discussion free from the burden of do you get a dividend or not,” he said. “That’s not really indicative of an open conversation about the changes that need to be made. I recognize we need to make some changes. I actually think we need to have this conversation.”
On Wednesday, the House spent an hour on the PFD when Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, introduced an amendment for a full PFD.
She said there was no reason to wait on a separate bill. “We keep putting it off for another day. Why do we do that? On the biggest topic that we are having contention over, we shouldn’t be afraid to have conflict here on this floor about things we are passionate about.”
Rep. Zach Fields, D-Anchorage, said a full PFD is not a long-term option.
“I’m fully supportive of a sustainable dividend,” he said. “What I’m not supportive of is a dividend so large that it actually drains the Permanent Fund itself.”
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