Alaska Senate passes bill to set PFD at $1,000 each for three years

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JUNEAU, Alaska (KXDF)- The Alaska Senate has passed a bill which would set Permanent Fund Dividends at $1000 each for the next three years.

House Bill 26 would allow use of some permanent fund investment earnings to help make up the state’s $3.5 billion budget deficit.

Sen. Anna McKinnon said Alaska has a problem in that its revenue is less than its expenditures, and that the state has been drawing from its savings for five years now.

“Overall, from 2015 to ’17 we've reduced the budget by 44 percent. That includes the capital budget. Mr. President, some people are saying its smoke and mirrors. Its not,” said McKinnon.

Sen. Berta Gartner said it takes courage in this state to bring forth a bill that reduces the Permanent Fund Dividend and changes the way it’s calculated.

“I think all of us understand that the earnings of the Permanent Fund have a very important place in solving our fiscal crisis,” said Gartner. “And that is, I believe, our absolute number one task to do this year, this year.”

Sen. Bill Willakowski said both sides are going to have to agree on a plan in order to solve the problem, and did not favor the bill.

“Nobody in this body believes that we do not have a fiscal crisis. But this fiscal crisis requires that we work together to find a compromise, that we find a comprehensive solution to this problem,” said Willakowski. “This bill does not find that compromise.”

Senator Mike Dunleavy said even if the bill passed, a lot more has to be done.

“Whatever the plan is for use of the Permanent Fund and its earnings, and I think everyone in here agrees that it's got to be a big part of the future of Alaska, that's what its purpose was. We have to be very careful and not fool ourselves into thinking that this is the end all, be all. It's not. This is not.”