Alaska state House Speaker Mike Chenault leans forward to speak with Rep. Kurt Olson during a break in an evening floor session on Sunday, April 17, 2016, in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

Alaska state House Speaker Mike Chenault leans forward to speak with Rep. Kurt Olson during a break in an evening floor session on Sunday, April 17, 2016, in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

Meyer: Permanent fund bill could be difficult in Senate

JUNEAU — Senate President Kevin Meyer said Tuesday that he doesn’t think there’s broad support in his chamber for a restructuring of Alaska Permanent Fund earnings.

He said that not including tax bills, it would be the hardest bill of those left in play for the Senate to pass.

Rewrites of Gov. Bill Walker’s bill calling for structured annual draws from permanent fund earnings and changes to the dividend program are pending in the House and Senate Finance committees. They call for annual draws of 5.25 percent of the average market value of the permanent fund for the first five of the six preceding fiscal years. A dividend of $1,000 would be guaranteed for three years and after that be based on 20 percent of the draw and an amount equal to 20 percent of resource royalties.

During a House hearing Tuesday, Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, said he worries that provisions of the rewrite reducing the payout as oil prices rise are a “pathway to austerity” since they would limit the revenue available to address areas that have been cut in recent years.

Attorney General Craig Richards said the provisions speak to concerns about budget volatility and growing government when oil prices rise.

“What that does is, one, it’s frankly, I think, the right way to handle the permanent fund, which is, we’re not spending it when we really don’t need it,” he said during the hearing.

The portion of the draw dedicated for dividends would not be affected by the reduced payout.

Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, said he doesn’t support a permanent fund restructuring this year. He said there are a number of members in the Senate who see room for further budget cuts “before you go to Alaskans and say, Give me your money.”

The structured use of permanent fund earnings is seen as a cornerstone of Walker’s fiscal plan. It’s one of the big pieces still under consideration during the extended legislative session, along with oil and gas tax credits, tax bills, state spending plans and changes to the state’s criminal justice system. The permanent fund piece alone wouldn’t close the state’s budget deficit.

Resolution on credits is seen as key to making further progress on the budget and revenue bills. The House Rules Committee scheduled a meeting on the credits bill that stalled in the House for Wednesday.

Minority Democrats on Tuesday laid out concerns with the current oil and gas tax and credit structures, with Sen. Bill Wielechowski calling the need to make fixes to the system a “line in the sand.”

Walker proposed eliminating certain credits and raising the minimum tax on North Slope producers, an idea that’s been a hard sell. House Minority Leader Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, has said his caucus wants changes at least on par with what Walker proposed.

A number of legislators have expressed openness to addressing elements like credits in Cook Inlet. But some lawmakers have worried about the impact that big changes will have on an industry hit by low oil prices.

Lawmakers also had yet to resolve differences on a bill that would allow for national criminal history checks for applicants for legal marijuana business licenses. That bill has been stuck over differences on a provision that would bar legal marijuana operations in unincorporated areas outside of organized boroughs but allow communities in those areas to hold local elections to allow for pot businesses.

More in News

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Members of the Alaska House of Representatives on Saturday rejected the budget bill passed by the Senate earlier in the week. The bill will now go to a bicameral committee for negotiations, but the end of the legislative session is Wednesday.
House votes down Senate’s budget as end of session nears

State budget now goes to negotiating committee

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Candidate for Alaska’s lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives Tara Sweeney, a Republican, was in Juneau on Monday and sat down with the Empire for an interview. Sweeney said the three main pillars of her campaign are the economy, jobs and healthy communities.
Sweeney cites experience in run for Congress

GOP candidate touts her history of government-related work

One tree stands in front of the Kenai Post Office on Thursday, May 12, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai taking down hazard beetle trees

The city hopes to leverage grant funds for most of the work

Former Alaska governor and current congressional hopeful Sarah Palin speaks with attendees at a meet-and-greet event outside of Ginger’s Restaurant on Saturday, May 14, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Palin brings congressional bid to Soldotna

The former governor took time Saturday to sign autographs and take pictures with attendees

In this October 2019 photo, Zac Watt, beertender for Forbidden Peak Brewery, pours a beer during the grand opening for the Auke Bay business in October 2019. On Sunday, the Alaska House of Representatives OK’d a major update to the state’s alcohol laws. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Graphic by Ashlyn O'Hara
Borough, school district finalizing $65M bond package

Efforts to fund maintenance and repairs at school district facilities have been years in the making

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Members of the House Majority Coalition spent most of Friday, May 13, 2022, in caucus meetings at the Alaska State Capitol, discussing how to proceed with a large budget bill some have called irresponsible. With a thin majority in the House of Representatives, there’s a possibility the budget could pass.
State budget work stretches into weekend

Sessions have been delayed and canceled since Wednesday

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Alaskans for Better Government members La quen náay Liz Medicine Crow, Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson and ‘Wáahlaal Gidáak Barbara Blake embrace on the floor of the Alaska State Senate following the passage of House Bill 123, a bill to formally recognize the state’s 229 federally recognized tribes.
Tribal recognition bill clears Senate, nears finish line

Senators say recognition of tribes was overdue

The Alaska Division of Forestry’s White Mountain crew responds to a fire burning near Milepost 46.5 of the Sterling Highway on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, near Cooper Landing, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Cooper Landing Emergency Services)
Officials encourage residents to firewise homes

The central peninsula has already had its first reported fires of the season

Most Read