Senate committee hears public testimony on Dunleavy's PFD bills

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — Residents across Alaska weighed in Thursday evening on whether Permanent Fund Dividend money from years past should be retroactively paid out as promised in during Gov. Mike Dunleavy's gubernatorial campaign and proposed in Senate Bills 23 and 24.

"There's a lot of very strong emotions on this topic across the board, both for and against," said Senate State Affairs Chair Sen. Mike Showers, R-Wasilla.

The Anchorage Legislative Information Office was just one of the locations where people were present to make their voices heard, though most who testified chose instead to call in to the meeting in Juneau.

The question at hand: Should Permanent Fund Dividend payments be left alone, or should qualifying residents be paid some of the money that was cut in the past?

"Bear with me," Showers said. "This is going to be a long evening, and we're going to be doing this again."

Testimony was limited to just one minute with so many people, all with much to say, expected to speak. One Anchorage-area man had prepared a written, eight-page statement to be submitted.

If adopted, payments would be added to the annual dividend checks of each eligible Alaskan of $1,061 in 2019; $1,289 in 2020; and $1,328 in 2021. However, unless taxes are also put in place in the future, the larger PFD would mean heftier checks for those who qualify but further hits to state services.

[RELATED: Gov. Dunleavy proposes PFD payback over three years]

People who oppose the bills stated various reasons — most cited the hits to departments such as education as the primary deterrent for moving the bills forward.

"Which is better?" asked Richard Steele of Juneau. "Money in my pocket, or an investment in education? So I oppose both of these bills."

Others focused more on the perceived intentions of the administration.

"Why are they so eager to increase the Permanent Fund Dividend?" said Larry Calvin of Sitka. "That is a bribe. That buys the vote of people merely needing the dividend."

Still, some said they believe the move is worth it in the end.

"People, don't cry about it, because the governor is doing what he said he was going to do," said Fred Sturman, of Soldotna.

Public testimony will again be accepted in person and via teleconference next Tuesday, March 5, beginning at 6:00 p.m.

Editor's note: A previous version of this story stated public testimony would take place again at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 5. Public testimony will begin at 6 p.m.