All or nothing? Dunleavy vows to veto Senate’s new PFD bill

Dunleavy pledges to veto Senate’s dividend bill unless it changes

After all the talk of a super-sized dividend or a smaller-than-average dividend, Alaskans might be getting the same Alaska Permanent Fund dividend this year that they got last year.

The Alaska Senate is considering a bill that would give out a $1,600 dividend this year, which would be the same amount as last year. The Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sens. Bert Stedman and Natasha von Imhof, proposed the bill Monday, and the Senate is set to debate the bill at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

The bill introduced Monday, Senate Bill 1002, could be amended on the Senate floor Tuesday, so the $1,600 figure could change before it gets sent to the House. Gov. Mike Dunleavy would also have to sign off on the bill, and he has been adamant that he wants to give Alaskans a full, $3,000 dividend.

Dunleavy did not mince words in a statement Monday, assuring that if the bill gets to his desk, he will veto it.

“This bill kills the Permanent Fund Dividend as we know it,” Dunleavy said in his statement. “The PFD is your share of Alaska’s mineral wealth, and there should be no change to the dividend without a vote of the people.

“That’s what I promised on the campaign and that’s the promise I intend to keep. I cannot and will not support this legislation.”

Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, left, Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, center, and Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, listen to Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, present SB 1002, a bill to provide a Permanent Fund Dividend of $1,600, to the Senate Rules Committee at the Capitol on Monday, June 3, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, left, Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, center, and Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, listen to Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, present SB 1002, a bill to provide a Permanent Fund Dividend of $1,600, to the Senate Rules Committee at the Capitol on Monday, June 3, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

During his campaign and prior to the session beginning, Dunleavy asserted his desire to not only pay a full, $3,000 PFD, but to also include back payments to make up for the fact that the Alaska Legislature cut the PFD amount the past three years to balance the state’s budget. Legislators have all but ignored the back pay option.

Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon told The Associated Press on Monday that he believes there would be support in the House for the $1,600 total. He went on to tell the AP that if Dunleavy vetoed the bill, it would almost certainly cause another special session.

During this legislative session, lawmakers have been gridlocked on the amount of the dividend and the future of the fund itself. The Legislature has had to go into a special session (which is now halfway through its 30 days) to iron out the PFD, along with the budget and other issues. Some lawmakers have advocated for a full PFD, while some have suggested lower-than-usual dividends. The original budget from the House, for example, allowed for about a $1,200 dividend.

SB 1002 unanimously passed the Senate Rules Committee on Monday. During that committee meeting, Stedman spoke about the ins and outs of the bill. The bill would take $770 million from the state’s general fund and $172 million from the budget reserve fund (which the Legislature is allowed to access as long as a majority of members vote to do so).

[Opinion: A public vote on the PFD is worse than doing nothing]

It would also take between $128 million and $148 million from the Alaska Higher Education Investment Fund. This fund assists Alaskans who pursue secondary education in state. Stedman said the fund currently has more than $300 million in it, and said he doesn’t think drawing this money puts the fund in jeopardy in the short term.

Stedman and the members of the Senate Rules Committee — a group that includes Senate President Cathy Giessel, Majority Leader Mia Costello and Minority Leader Tom Begich — agreed that it’s vital that the Legislature figures out a way to make the PFD sustainable into the future.

“We’re impacting our descendents, and not (just) for next year or 10 years from now, but 25 years from now, 50 years from now, 100 years from now, it goes on in perpetuity,” Stedman, a Sitka Republican, said. “So it’s a significant decision that faces the Legislature, how to finance our current obligations and not devour our seed capital that really should be left for future generations of Alaskans.”


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


More in News

The badge for the Kenai Police Department
3 charged after Kenai beach assault

Video evidence of the incident and multiple calls from concerned citizens led to the arrests.

A sign announcing the closure of Kenai Peninsula Borough School District schools at K-Beach Elementary can be seen on March 26, 2020, near Soldotna, Alaska. (Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
School board to vote on 1st day for students

Smart Start plan for KPBSD will be sent to Department of Education by the end of this month

Shawn Dick of Talkneetna carries a fresh catch out of the water while dipnetting on the Kenai Beach on July 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Dipnetting opens in Kenai

Dipnetters see quiet 1st day, with moderate catch

COVID-19. (Image courtesy the CDC)
49 new COVID-19 cases reported

Seven of the new resident cases reported Thursday were identified on the Kenai Peninsula.

Skylar Giordano cuts Ryan Huerta’s hair at RD’s Barber Shop in Kenai, Alaska on Thursday, July 9, 2020. RD’s is one of the 186 local businesses and nonprofits in Kenai that already received financial assistance through the City of Kenai’s Grant Program. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai boosts local economy with grants

The city has distributed $1.9 million in grants to 186 businesses and nonprofits.

Hospital adds new COVID-19 rooms

The hospital has made several changes or modifications to its facilities.

Salmon Run Series returns

Running races now feature masks, pods and elbow taps

A Homer Volunteer Fire Department emergency medical technician, left, assists a person who was involved in a boat capsizing, center, as they walk up the load-launch ramp on Wednesday, July 8, 2020, at the Homer Harbor in Homer, Alaska. The crew of the F/V Captain Cook helped rescue the person. The crew of the F/V Casino rescued the other two people who were aboard the 14-foot skiff when it capsized near the entrance of China Poot Bay. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
1 dead, 2 rescued after boat capsizes near China Poot Bay

A 14-foot skiff carrying three people overturned near Gull Island in the mouth of China Poot Bay.

Most Read