Senate approves state operating budget

JUNEAU, Alaska – The Alaska Senate yesterday passed the state’s operating budget for fiscal year 2020.

The budget includes $4.3 billion in unrestricted general funds (UGF) for agency and statewide operations – a reduction of $258 million over last year – and $1.94 billion to pay each eligible Alaskan a Permanent Fund dividend of approximately $3,000.

Including a $3,000 dividend in the Senate’s version of the budget creates the possibility for a House and Senate conference committee to negotiate up to the full, statutory dividend amount.

“This budget protects the Permanent Fund for future generations of Alaskans, grows the economy, and keeps Alaskans safe,” said Senator Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “The nine-member Senate Finance Committee – representing diverse viewpoints across our vast state – produced a budget Alaskans can be proud of.”

$18.4 billion of Alaska’s $64.5 billion Permanent Fund is currently in an earnings reserve account that can be spent by the Legislature with a simple majority vote. To protect these funds, the Senate’s budget moves $12 billion from the earnings reserve into the constitutionally protected corpus, which cannot be accessed without amending the state’s constitution.

“Defending the Permanent Fund is a top priority for the Senate,” said Senator Natasha von Imhof, R-Anchorage, co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “This budget locks away $12 billion into the Permanent Fund’s principal, taking nearly one-fifth of the fund’s assets off the table. This historic transfer will force the Legislature to have a conversation about a sustainable dividend calculation moving forward.”
The Senate’s budget affirms the FY20 forward-funding for K-12 education approved last year

“This budget delivers solid results for Alaska families and businesses,” said Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage. “I am immensely proud of the work of the Senate Finance Committee, particularly the two co-chairs.”

House Bill 39 passed the Senate by a vote of 19 to 1 and is now on its way to the Alaska House of Representatives for concurrence.