Operating budget approved, PFD value not included

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JUNEAU, Alaska The State Legislature has just past an operating budget, and they seem to be setting up for a second special session to approve the PFD.

The Alaska State Legislature has approved an operating budget, with the PFD calculation not included. HB 39 was approved on Sunday in the House by a vote of 22 to 15, and the Senate unanimously approved the bill today. Both sides of the aisle see the bill as a compromise, resulting in the smallest budget in 15 years. It also moves $10 billion dollars from the Permanent Fund earnings to the constitutionally protected principal of the fund. That is expected to generate $100 billion dollars in 15 years.

The bill now moves to Governor Dunleavy's desk to be signed into law, however, as of now, it is unclear what action he will take. Dunleavy originally promoted HB 39 when the special session began, but that was back when the bill called for a full statutory PFD calculation for this year. In the version the Legislature approved, that language was removed.

The only interior representative to vote against the bill, Dave Talerico, said he thought the bill could have cut more. He went on to talk about the removal of the PFD payout from the bill.

"I'm not sure that's what caused it to pass or not," said Representative Talerico, "It may have had some influence on some folks, and now I just don't see anything on the table that contains a Permanent Fund Dividend; and I know it's a very tough conversation, but it's one that we should be having. But I am kind of accustom to seeing it in the budget."

According to members of the Legislature, including Talerico, the PFD calculation will not likely be agreed upon in this special session, and a second special session will be needed. In anticipation for another special session, the House on Sunday voted to approve HRC 101, which calls for a committee of both house and senate members to review the use of the Permanent Fund earnings historically. The bill says the purpose of the committee would be to advise the legislature on the future use of the earnings. The Senate approved the bill around 3 pm today. The House has not released the names of the members, but the Senate has. Fairbanks Senator Click Bishop has been named the chair of the committee. Other senators named to the committee are Shelly Hughes of Palmer, Donny Olson of Golovin, and Bert Stedman of Sitka.

The Legislature also voted to approve a budget supporting mental health research and facilities in the state. The bill passed with a vote of 35 to 2 in the House and unanimously in the Senate.