Alaska Legislature adjourns from special session without a PFD

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The Alaska Legislature has adjourned from the first special session in Juneau without passing a Permanent Fund Dividend or fully funding the capital budget.

A second special session will now be needed to resolve the dividend. "I said it before and I’ll say it again, the Legislature’s job is not over until it passes a full statutory PFD for Alaskans," Gov. Mike Dunleavy wrote on social media Wednesday.

House Majority Leader Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks, said the Legislature would be coming back into a second special session and a PFD would be delivered to Alaskans in 2019.

“I just want to assure the public, we will absolutely be providing a dividend this year,” he said on the floor. "It will be responsible, sustainable.”

An 8-member working group began meeting Wednesday to try and resolve the long-term future of the Permanent Fund and the size of the 2019 dividend.

During the first special session, the Legislature passed a compromise operating budget and a tough-on-crime bill. An education dispute between the administration and the Legislature was not resolved.

The House voted Thursday morning 23-11 to adjourn sine die, with no future date for resumption, along caucus lines with the House minority voting to stay in session. Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, who sits with no caucus, voted with the majority.

Around an hour later, the Alaska Senate voted unanimously to adjourn sine die.

The Legislature is deadlocked on the size of the 2019 dividend, unable to find a majority of members to agree to a single figure.

The capital budget has also been left unresolved by lawmakers. The House and Senate passed the budget but gave no mechanism for how large parts of it would be funded.

The proposed $1.6 billion capital budget would fund construction and maintenance projects across Alaska.

Sen. Natasha von Imhof, R-Anchorage, spoke Thursday morning about the implications of not fully funding the capital budget, citing the potential loss of around $1 billion in federal matching funds for highways and airports.

Von Imhof said state funding to receive those federal funds would need to be finalized before the end of July.

$30 million in funds for a tough-on-crime bill passed by the Legislature would also not be released.

The funding for the crime bills would come from the Power Cost Equalization Fund, used to keep energy costs down in rural Alaska. Sen. Donny Olson, D-Golovin, spoke against that, saying the PCE faced being eroded over time.

The House decided to use around $150 million from the Constitutional Budget Reserve to fund large parts of the capital budget. A three-quarters vote of members from the Senate and the House are required to approve spending from the CBR.

The vote to spend from the CBR was not successful in the House. In the Senate, many members questioned the funding sources used and hoped that they would be changed after further debate.

Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, said the idea of using the CBR to fund much of the capital budget was to leave more money in the General Fund to pay for the Permanent Fund dividend.



 
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