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Governor won’t veto $1,100 dividend passed by Legislature

Fourth special session starting Oct. 1 on a fiscal plan
The exterior of the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau, Alaska.
The exterior of the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau, Alaska.(KTUU)
Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 2:40 PM AKDT|Updated: Sep. 14, 2021 at 7:51 PM AKDT
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - Gov. Mike Dunleavy says he will sign off on the $1,100 Permanent Fund dividend passed by the Alaska Legislature in the final hours of the third special session.

On Tuesday evening, Dunleavy said in a press release that he will not veto the dividend, but he will call the Legislature back for a fourth special session in Juneau “to get the rest of this year’s PFD and to solve the state’s financial problems with a complete fiscal plan.”

The fourth special session is slated to start Oct. 1.

In the press release, Dunleavy said the dividend approved today is a “half measure.” He said a veto “would seem appropriate, but at this stage of the game that would aid and abet those that don’t care about individual Alaskans, small businesses and the economy.”

The funding source for over 40% of the Legislature’s $1,100 dividend had been contentious. The governor had said it comes from an account that’s empty due to a failed procedural vote, but some legislative leaders, following advice from their attorneys, say it should be full after a recent Superior Court decision.

The governor’s office released a statement about the contentious account.

“The legislature is the appropriating body and they have put on the record multiple times since the PCE superior court decision, that both their finance committees and legal counsel believes the SBR is a valid fund source for the PFD,” the statement reads.

“Governor Dunleavy continues to believe that view is not as certain as the legislature has made it seem, and the issue may have to be resolved by the courts,” the statement continues. “Right now, Governor Dunleavy believes it is more important to get PFD checks into the hands of Alaskans as quickly as possible to help them recover from the economic fallout of the pandemic.”

The Permanent Fund Dividend Division has said it’s reasonable to assume that it will take 30 days for Alaskans to receive their checks after a dividend is approved by legislators and signed by the governor. The bill has not yet been transmitted to the governor’s office for Dunleavy’s signature.

On Tuesday morning, the House of Representatives canceled its floor session after passing the dividend bill in late August.

If the Senate changed the bill or the dividend amount, the House would need to agree to those changes. Without a floor session scheduled, that wasn’t possible before the special session ends at midnight on Tuesday.

Effectively, the Senate had a take-it-or-leave-it decision to make. Sen. Mike Shower, R-Wasilla, was frustrated.

“It’s $1,100 or nothing,” he said. “That’s the option we were put into and it feels like a setup to me.”

Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, said the tight timing of Tuesday’s dividend debate in the Senate would not be repeated in future sessions. He said there could be a supplemental dividend when legislators convene again, but a big priority is ending the dividend debates once and for all.

“We have a lot more work to do and legislators must come together on a fiscal plan going forward,” Micciche added.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information.

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