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Governor postpones August special session, gives fiscal working group more time

Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 4:51 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - As the state legislature prepares to meet in special session starting August 16th, a group of legislators is working to find a solution to the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) and the state’s budget crisis.

This Fiscal Policy Working Group was developed to make a bipartisan recommendation to the Alaska House and Senate during its upcoming special session.

“Since basically July 4th, we’ve been working nonstop,” State Senator Scott Kawasaki said.

Eight members of the Alaska legislature, including Interior Senator Kawasaki, are in the group

Kawasaki says their plan will cover important issues facing Alaska. “The Permanent Fund Dividend - do we put it in the Constitution? Do we not? We’re looking at a spending cap. Is there a constitutional spending cap that we should work through, or maybe one that is in statute? The governor’s also requested work on Power Cost Equalization and a budget, so we will have an appropriations bill at some point in time to discuss some of the things that were vetoed in the governor’s budget”

Members come from both the Republican and Democratic caucuses in each chamber of the state’s congress. According to Kawasaki, “We inch closer to a solution. This is a different way to approach it with this Fiscal Policy Working Group, and so I’m optimistic that we will come up with some things that we can talk about during the special session that both the governor will be able to support and both the legislatures will be able to support.”

When the working group has a policy proposal, Kawasaki says members will go back to their caucuses “and sort of make a pitch as to some of the things we agree on, some of the things we might disagree on, in order to speed the process during the special session.”

It is hoped that this will happen before the August Special Session begins and legislators return to the capital. Kawasaki continued “If the caucuses don’t agree, we’re going to have to negotiate a little bit back and forth, and that’s with any process and any legislative process. It’s a challenging process but it’s something that needs to get done so we can get real agreement with folks across the state, both parties involved.”

In the meantime, members of the group have gathered feedback from the community. Kawasaki said, “It runs the whole gamut. There’s folks that want no Permanent Fund Dividend but they want to support an income tax, or they want a full Permanent Fund Dividend, or they want cuts in government spending somewhere.”

Governor Dunleavy postponed the special session’s start date to August 16th in order to give the working group time to develop a plan. The session is scheduled to last one month.

On Saturday, July 31, Senator Kawasaki and Representative Mike Prax will host a public testimony session at the Legislative Information Office in Fairbanks from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Their goal is to hear the voices of the community, and their suggestions on the budget and the PFD.