Operating budget on final passage, PFD taken out of bill

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - A special committee finalized its work on the fiscal year 2020 operating budget Saturday afternoon, sending the budget on its final passage through the Legislature.

The committee approved a $9.4 billion transfer into the Permanent Fund corpus, a constitutionally protected account that can only be spent by a vote of the people. Another roughly $1 billion could be added to that figure for inflation-proofing, bringing the transfer to above $10 billion.

The transfer from the $18 billion Earnings Reserve Account, the account that collects earnings from the Permanent Fund, is said to be the largest single monetary transfer in the state’s history.

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, said it was a decision that all “legislators should be proud of and take credit for.” The funds can now be invested by the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation with surety that lawmakers can’t spend them, said Stedman.

The committee also approved removing the Permanent Fund dividend from the budget and debating the size of the 2019 PFD separately in another bill. Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, said removing the PFD from the budget did not mean that lawmakers did not support a full statutory dividend.

Out of six lawmakers on the committee, Sen. Donny Olson, D-Golovin, and Rep. Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, were the only two opponents of that plan, saying the budget contained a full dividend and it should be passed as is.

The budget will now head back to the House and the Senate for a final vote before heading to the governor for his consideration. An operating budget needs to be signed by July 1 or the state government will shutdown.

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