Anchorage Republican proposed a $900 dividend to break logjam

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - An Anchorage Republican senator proposed a $900 Permanent Fund dividend for 2019 as means to break the logjam in the Alaska Legislature.

Senate Bill 1002, introduced Monday morning, was written to deliver a $1,600 PFD to eligible Alaskans. The bill was then successfully amended to deliver a roughly $3,000 dividend, following the decades-old statutory formula.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy campaigned on the promise of a full statutory dividend and believes in following the statutory formula. He is hosting a rally Thursday afternoon in Wasilla calling on lawmakers to deliver a $3,000 PFD.

Amid passionate debate, Sen. Chris Birch, R-Anchorage, introduced an alternative proposal, a so-called “balanced budget dividend” that would not require the Legislature to dip into savings.

“This amendment would put us on a more sustainable course by providing for a reasonable $900 dividend to Alaskans,” said Birch on the floor. “Which helps ensure the longevity of the Permanent Fund itself and allows for funding of core state services.”

A full statutory dividend would cost $1.944 billion dollars and require spending from the Earnings Reserve Account (ERA), the account that collects earnings from the Permanent Fund, or from savings accounts.

Birch’s proposal would cost $625 million and wouldn’t require lawmakers to overdraw from the ERA under the rules-based system devised under Senate Bill 26.

The amendment was voted down 4-14 with two members absent. The bill itself, containing the $3,000 dividend, also narrowly failed to pass 10-8. Though 10 lawmakers voted in favor of the bill, an 11-vote majority of the body is required.

SB 1002 could be brought back for a revote when the two absent senators return to Juneau. During a phone call Thursday, Birch did not say if he would bring the amendment back to the table.

Instead, he said the focus now was to find a majority in the Legislature to get an operating budget passed. The Senate majority has proposed separating the dividend from the budget and getting it to the governor’s desk before June 14, the end of the ongoing special session in Juneau.

On the question of whether he could support a $1,600 dividend, Birch said he wasn’t dismissing any proposal.

A budget has to be passed by July 1 or the Alaska state government will shut down, causing thousands of state workers to be furloughed or laid off.

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