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Alaska Legislature comes to tentative budget deal with over $3,800 in cash payments

The exterior of the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau, Alaska.
The exterior of the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau, Alaska.(KTUU)
Published: May. 17, 2022 at 3:45 PM AKDT|Updated: May. 17, 2022 at 4:13 PM AKDT
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Legislature has a tentative budget deal in place that would pay out roughly $3,800 to each eligible Alaskan this year.

The cash payments in the budget are split between a 50-50 Permanent Fund dividend at over $2,500 and a one-time energy relief check at $1,300. Three quarters of the House of Representatives and the Senate will need to approve drawing from a savings account to pay for half of the energy relief check. If that vote fails, the final cash payment figure would drop to around $3,150.

The House and Senate will still need to pass the final budget bill on Wednesday, the last day of the legislative session. Gov. Mike Dunleavy would also need to sign off on the budget when it reaches his desk.

The final amount of cash payments in the budget has been the subject of days of closed-door debates and delays. The $3,800 number has been pitched as a compromise between the $5,500 in the Senate’s budget and the $2,500 in the House’s budget.

The governor urged the Legislature to approve “at least” a $3,700-dividend last month, and he wanted it to be as close as possible to a full statutory $4,200 dividend.

“Governor Dunleavy looks forward to learning what amount the conference committee determines will be appropriated for this year’s PFD,” said Jeff Turner, a spokesperson for the governor’s office, in an email on Monday.

Some in the Legislature have been pushing for a larger dividend this year, closer to the $5,500 figure, arguing that high inflation and high energy prices justify a larger check. Others have said that there could be deficit concerns, particularly if the oil price drops.

Anchorage Democratic Sen. Bill Wielechowski has been a long-time supporter of a statutory dividend, and said he would prefer that amount, but he noted that this year’s figure would be 90% of the $4,200 full PFD. Rep. Bart LeBon, R-Fairbanks, raised similar concerns.

The final budget contains some other big ticket items:

  • Almost $400 million would be appropriated to help repair the crumbling Port of Alaska and to expand the Port of Nome
  • The budget includes a maximum of $349 million to pay oil and tax credits owed to producers for a now-defunct program that was intended to increase production
  • $300 million would go out to local governments to help pay for old school construction costs, which were vetoed by multiple governors
  • $359 million has been set aside to recapitalize the state’s college scholarship fund.
  • $57 million would be added to the per student school funding formula on a one-time basis. Gov. Mike Dunleavy has threatened to veto a school funding increase without a reading bill also passing

The legislative session must end by midnight on Wednesday.

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