PFD working group aims to provide 'context and solutions'

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - A bicameral working group is aiming to provide "context and solutions" to the ongoing debate over the Permanent Fund dividend, but not a specific PFD figure for 2019, says Sen. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, the working group’s co-chair.

The group of eight lawmakers met in Anchorage Wednesday to learn about the history of the Permanent Fund and statutes impacting the PFD.

“It’s immensely helpful, especially for someone from the younger generations like myself,” said Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkims, a Democrat from Sitka.

The committee learned about court cases that determined eligibility for the PFD, as well as how appropriations are defined in the Alaska Constitution.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy appeared before the group of legislators to say that he supported greater discussion on the dividend but that Alaskans should always be engaged.

“You have to do this with the people of Alaska in mind - first, foremost and at the end,” he said to reporters after speaking to lawmakers.

But the governor isn't budging from his belief that a full statutory dividend should be delivered in 2019.

The working group is aiming to have the first phase of its work completed by July 8, the start of the second special session in Wasilla. Bishop said the goal of the committee was to provide historical context for the other 52 members in the Legislature and recommendations for how to break the PFD deadlock.

“We’re trying to take away the emotion,” said Rep. Jennifer Johnson, R-Anchorage, another of the working group’s co-chairs.

The members of the working group have been given “class assignments.” Three groups of two lawmakers have been tasked with examining the impacts of a full $3,000 dividend, another is looking at a $1,600 dividend, while a third is digging into the impacts of a $900 PFD.

Kreiss-Tomkins said he "can see some areas of common interest” emerging through discussions. He would not clarify what those common interests might be leading toward.

As for determining the size of the 2019 PFD, Bishop said that was not the role of the committee. “That’s a work in progress,” he said.

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