The Alaska State Capitol on Friday, March 1, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

The Alaska State Capitol on Friday, March 1, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Alaska House passes budget with roughly $2,275 payments to residents, bill goes to Senate

The bill also includes a roughly $175 million, one-time increase in aid to school districts that would be paid according to a funding formula

JUNEAU — The Alaska House on Thursday passed its version of the state operating budget that includes direct payments to residents of roughly $2,275 a person. That amount is expected to be a subject of negotiations in the waning weeks of the legislative session, with Senate leaders questioning whether the state can afford it.

The House spending plan includes an Alaska Permanent Fund dividend of roughly $1,650, plus energy relief payments of about $625. Senate Finance Committee co-Chair Bert Stedman told reporters Wednesday that House and Senate leaders had reached agreement on big items related to the budget but not on that issue.

The bill also includes a roughly $175 million, one-time increase in aid to school districts that would be paid according to a funding formula. Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy last month vetoed an education package that overwhelmingly passed the Legislature that would have permanently boosted school funding by that amount. Dunleavy complained the package lacked provisions he wanted on teacher bonuses and charter schools — provisions that had failed to win broad support among lawmakers.

Lawmakers fell one vote short of overriding the veto, frustrating school leaders and education advocates who have been pleading for more money. Students last week walked out of class — and marched through the Capitol — in protest.

The Republican-led House has been trying to cobble together a new education package, with the legislative session set to end in mid-May.

The size of the yearly dividend — long paid to residents using earnings from the state’s permanent fund has become a perennial fight.

For years, the amount set aside for checks was determined by a formula that lawmakers have virtually abandoned, particularly as the state has increasingly relied on fund earnings to help pay for government. Legislators have not set a new formula and instead have battled each year over what the dividend amount should be.

The operating budget next goes to the Senate, which is working on its version of a state infrastructure budget. Differences between what passes the House and Senate are generally hashed out in a conference committee.

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