Alaska Legislators Voted Residents Out of A Full PFD Again - P.O.W. Report

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Alaska Legislators Voted Residents Out of A Full PFD Again

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The budget will be deeply disappointing to some, who had had their hopes raised by legislative leaders that an immediate aid check of $1,000 would be issued in April. That was stripped out by the House Democrat-led Majority and not restored in the conference committee negotiations.

The operating budget:

  • Ensured that no State worker will lose current wages or benefits or face furloughs. All step and merit pay increases will continue.
  • Added money to the Alaska Pioneers Home and another $21 million for low income seniors in the Senior Benefits program.
  • Added $1.055 billion to the corpus of the Permanent Fund.
  • Increased funding for State Troopers and Village Public Safety Officers by $165 million, a request from the governor.
  • Included Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s disaster response funding of $75 million for the Department of Health and Social Services, $5 million for the Disaster Relief Fund, $5 million for the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, and $2.7 million for the public health services at the Municipality of Anchorage.
  • Made a $30 million grant to the Department of Education.
  • Ensured public radio and television are fully funded.
  • Ensured 100 percent school bond debt reimbursement for localities and increased community assistance grants.

From the Governor:

Governor Dunleavy Gives FY21 Budget a Mixed Grade

March 29, 2020 (Juneau) – Early this morning, the 31st Alaska State Legislature recessed after finishing work on the FY 2021 Operating and Capital Budget, the FY 2020 Supplemental Budget, and extending the Public Health Emergency Disaster Declaration for COVID-19. Governor Mike Dunleavy appreciates the fact that lawmakers worked quickly to pass a budget and, that certain funding was included to combat aspects of the pandemic and the associated economic fallout. However, the Governor feels the legislature missed the mark by not including a cash infusion that many leading economists believe should be implemented as quickly as possible.

“Thousands of Alaskans are out of work through no fault of their own, due to the government pausing most economic activity to slow the spread of the disease,” said Governor Dunleavy. “It would appear lawmakers missed the opportunity to create a cash infusion from the earnings reserve account into the hands of Alaskans, like hairdressers and restaurant workers, that could have happened in as little as two weeks. I am quite frankly puzzled why they would not do that.”

“The vast majority of economists worldwide, as well as the President of the United States, and almost every member of congress understand how a quick injection of cash into the hands of workers will do more to stabilize the economy than any other approach at this time. My administration will continue to work closely with Alaska’s congressional delegation and the White House on how to maximize the benefit of the federal emergency relief package here in Alaska,” added Governor Dunleavy.


Earlier in the afternoon Saturday, the budget changed substantially. A complicated funding amendment was added that tied the size of the dividend to $75 million in public health funding to combat COVID-19.

If a three-quarter majority vote in the Senate and House had failed, the dividend would have dropped to $500, the coronavirus funding would have disappeared and the budget for the upcoming fiscal year would only have funded state government for 8-9 months.

Dozens of state accounts would also have been drained on July 1 that are used for everything from paying for university scholarships to helping Alaskans in rural areas with their power bills.

With the threat of COVID-19 causing anxiety in the Legislature, advocates of packaging the critical provisions together in one bill said it ensured lawmakers could end the session quickly. Critics said the amendment was being used to compel supporters of a full PFD to accept a $1,000 dividend.

The brinkmanship of the newly-inserted budget amendment succeeded and the budget passed, fully funded.

The House needed to reach a 30-vote threshold. It passed the budget on a 30-6 vote with four members excused.

From Representative Tomkins:

JUNEAU – The Alaska Legislature this evening passed the state’s capital and operating budgets, House Bill 205, with a 23-13 vote, and funded the bill with a supermajority vote of 30-6.

The budget provides critical funding that will allow the State of Alaska to effectively respond to the COVID-19 crisis, ensures that essential services will continue operating uninterrupted in the upcoming fiscal year, and funds a $1,000 Permanent Fund Dividend this fall.

“Alaskans take care of Alaskans,” House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (I-Dillingham) said. “That’s never been truer than during the COVID-19 crisis, and we saw another example today as we set aside our differences and worked together as a unified Legislature to pass a budget in record time and ensure that essential services will continue without interruption.”

HB 205 contains several items related to COVID-19 response efforts, including: $75 million for the Department of Health and Social Services, $5 million for the Disaster Relief Fund, $5 million for the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation, and $2.7 million for the public health services provided by the Municipality of Anchorage.

“Today was a victory for Alaska’s first responders and frontline healthcare workers who now have additional tools to keep our people safe and healthy,” House Finance Co-Chair Neal Foster (D-Nome) said.

“I’m proud of the thorough, hard work that was done to craft a budget amid a rapidly evolving public health and economic crisis,” added House Finance Co-Chair Jennifer Johnston (R-Anchorage). “Because of today’s vote, the workers who keep our state running – doctors and nurses, firefighters and troopers – will be able to keep doing their jobs without the risk of interruption due to a lack of funding.”

Overall, HB 205 approves spending $4.54 billion of unrestricted general fund and includes funding for the following:

$151 million for the Alaska State Troopers and $14 million for the Village Public Safety Officer program to help make our state safe;
$98 million for Pioneer Homes and $21 million for Senior Benefits to make sure the elders who built our state live with dignity;
$1 billion to inflation proof the Permanent Fund so the fund won’t lose value over time, and a $1,000 dividend for eligible Alaskans.
HB 205 also passed the Senate this evening, 13-4, and now heads to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

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