Dunleavy announces bill to reverse PFD cut

Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, held a press conference Wednesday in front of an Anchorage Fred Meyer store to announce his intention to offer a bill that would restore half the Permanent Fund Dividend vetoed by Gov. Bill Walker this year.

In a prepared statement, Dunleavy said “the bill will be pre-filed as soon as possible, and I will ask for an expedited hearing when the Legislature convenes on Jan. 17, 2017.”

Dunleavy cast a strange scene as he announced his bill in the parking lot of an Anchorage store. The announcement was broadcast on Facebook Live, which showed shoppers stopping to watch and ask questions alongside reporters. One man in particular frequently interrupted Dunleavy with vocal opposition to the dividend veto.

The $1,022 dividend is expected to reach Alaskans Thursday, but it could have been double that amount had Walker not vetoed some $700 million from the account that pays dividends.

Walker said at the time that the veto was necessary to preserve the state’s savings. With Alaska’s state government operating at a multibillion-dollar deficit, it will soon need to use the account that pays dividends. Lowering the dividend this year ensures there will be more money in that account in the future.

Walker’s move was unpopular in many corners of the state, but the Alaska Legislature failed to muster enough votes to override Walker’s veto.

After the Legislature left Juneau, Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, launched a lawsuit to overturn Walker’s move on legal grounds. That measure is still proceeding through the courts, and Dunleavy said he’s “actually looking forward to the outcome of the lawsuit.”

He hopes his intent and announcement will start a bigger conversation about the right size of government and get people talking seriously, months before the Legislature starts working.

“Let’s agree that we’re going to have to reduce government and come up with a number first,” Dunleavy said. “We can’t even right now agree on a number, a size of reduction.”

If Alaskans can agree on that number, they’ll be able to then consider what can fit inside that figure — education, transportation, health care, or some other item.

“We got into this as a result of being too dependent on oil,” Dunleavy said. “We’re going to get out of this thing by working together and being transparent.”

Dunleavy is not running for election this year — his seat doesn’t come up for election until 2018 — but when asked if he is planning a run for governor, he didn’t directly deny it.

“This is not about any run,” Dunleavy said of his proposal. “This is not about any election.”

“This is unprecedented times,” he said, “but we’re hanging in there, standing in front of a store in which people are shopping, and we’re going to get through this.”

More in News

Debris from a large natural avalanche that occurred Monday, Dec. 6, can be seen along the Seward Highway. (Photo courtesy Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center)
Winter weather brings hazardous conditions to peninsula

On Tuesday, the Chugach Avalanche Center announced “very dangerous avalanche conditions.”

Central Peninsula Hospital is seen in Soldotna on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Hospital puts vaccine mandates on hold

A federal lawsuit challenging the ruling has temporarily blocked its enforcement.

A joint investigation between the FBI and Canadian law enforcement agencies resulted in the arrest of a Canadian man for cybercrimes on Nov. 30, 2021. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Canadian man indicted in international cybercrime case

His attacks targeted State of Alaska computers as well as Canadian ones.

Ashlyn O’Hara / Peninsula Clarion
The remains of the Triumvirate Theatre in Nikiski are seen on Feb. 22.
Triumvirate awarded $1 million to replace destroyed building

Triumvirate’s former building burned down Feb. 20.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education meets on Monday, Dec. 6, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Lawmakers, school board talk Juneau priorities

Lawmakers were invited for an “open discussion” about the upcoming legislative session.

A school closure announcement from the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District was issued Monday, Dec. 6, 2021.
Schools closed for Tuesday in Homer, Anchor Point

Central peninsula schools are still planned to open.

Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel (left) and Kenai City Council Member Henry Knackstedt speak at a joint work session at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center on Monday, Oct. 11, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai council defeats efforts to extend review of land management plan

The proposal would have divided the plan into four chunks that each of the city’s commissions would review one at a time.

Cheryl Fellman checks her watch before attempting an Ice Mile. An Ice Mile is a type of endurance swim that tasks swimmers with covering a mile in water that is 41 degrees or colder. Fellman swam a mile in just under 35 minutes on Saturday at Auke Recreation Area. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Juneau woman completes a mile in near-freezing water

The 49-year-old mother of two and longtime Juneau resident swam Saturday for more than half an hour.

Most Read