When the Alaska Senate couldn’t agree on an amount for this year’s Permanent Fund Dividend, it affected more than just the Senate.
Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, said in an interview Tuesday that House members were planning on getting a dividend bill from the Senate and then changing it.
“Many of us thought that a bill from the Senate was going to come over in some type of fashion, and it did not,” Wilson said. “It changed, ‘Where do we go from here?’”
Some might seek to find the answer to that question Wednesday, as the House makes amendments to the state’s capital budget.
The capital budget, which appropriates money mostly for construction and repair projects throughout the state, will go to the House floor Wednesday for a vote. The $1.4 billion budget mostly includes money for infrastructure such as highways.
Wilson said “would almost bet on” someone proposing an amendment to somehow fit a PFD into the capital budget bill, Senate Bill 19. This is the last bill dealing with appropriations to come before the Legislature this session, she said, so this is the last time someone could propose PFD funding.
It’s not clear who might propose an amendment or what it could look like. Wilson said negotiations about the dividend could fit into getting members of the Minority to vote for the budget. The House needs a 3/4 majority to pass the bill because it draws $162 million from the Constitutional Budget Reserve — an account that requires a 3/4 majority for the Legislature to use money from it. As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, Wilson said there weren’t enough votes to pass the bill.
During Tuesday’s House Finance Committee meeting, Reps. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, Cathy Tilton and Ben Carpenter (all members of the House Minority) voted against the capital budget in its current form. Carpenter had a laundry list of complaints.
“I object to a whole number of things so far,” Carpenter said in the meeting. “I don’t like taking a bunch of money out of the CBR, I don’t like writing blank checks for addiction treatment without some plan. There needs to be some more information gathered to make a good decision here and probably amend, which we’re not going to have time to do today.”
The addiction treatment funding is one of the key parts of the bill. The bill includes $12 million for construction of addiction treatment facilities throughout the state, though the projects have not been totally planned out yet.
Wilson said getting treatment facilities up and going is a key part of reducing crime in the state, and many have agreed with that sentiment this session. The Legislature passed House Bill 49, a crime bill that increases sentences and will put more people in prison for longer, but there hasn’t been anything substantial done to address root causes including drug addiction.
Wilson said the lack of treatment options has been an issue even since the passage of criminal justice reform bill Senate Bill 91.
“Because we were spending so much money (on incarceration), that’s why the addiction treatment area came first and foremost,” Wilson said. “How do we prevent some of these things from even happening? Treatment is definitely something we think has been missing, even since we passed SB 91.”
The House is scheduled to take the floor at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, where lawmakers can offer amendments and debate the bill.
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.