Wow, the resolution passes. It looks like Sens. Donny Olson and Lyman Hoffman flipped their votes from the previous vote. Gray-Jackson also flipped around, but the other two outweigh her.
Here’s how they voted:
Von Imhof yes
Sen. Natasha von Imhof, R-Anchorage, has been a quote machine as of late, and she’s still firing on all cylinders. She says, “I don’t know what the heck day it is. It’s day ‘a lot.’” She says she keeps hearing that Alaskans around the state are focused on the PFD. She disagrees.
“Actually, the people in this room are focused on the PFD,” von Imhof says.
She says it’s time to take a different approach. She’s in favor of this.
Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, is also speaking against this working group. These conversations shouldn’t be happening behind closed doors, Wilson says.
“The working group is not a good idea.” he says. “Period.”
Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, says he thinks it’s futile for legislators to keep debating.
“I see us as a deadlock and I believe the way forward is a vote of the people,” he says.
Senators now talking about the resolution as a whole. This seems as divisive as any other PFD-related debate. Reinbold is passionate once again, even going as far as comparing this working group to another working group in 2014 that made recommendations that eventually led to Senate Bill 91. That draws an objection from Coghill, who says that’s off topic and casting aspersions about other lawmakers present. Giessel agrees.
You’ll never guess what just happened. It’s a 10-10 vote. The amendment fails. No guarantee of a statutory dividend this year.
Here’s how they voted:
Von Imhof no
Sen. Reinbold rises again, saying they don’t need this working group.
“We already have a working group,” Reinbold says. “It has 40 members,” she says, likely referring to the Senate, which has 20 members. But her point is that the Legislature has already been talking about this and a separate working group isn’t necessary.
Senate President Cathy Giessel makes a quick note.
“For the record, let it be noted that this is the Senate and we have 20 members,” Giessel says.
We’re underway here. The Senate is taking up the House’s resolution that would form a working group to look at the long-term future of the Permanent Fund.
“You have to look as far over the horizon as you can,” Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, says.
Senate Majority Leader Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, proposes an amendment to this resolution that would require the state to pay a full statutory dividend (so $3,000 this year) until the state passes a bill into law to address the long-term future of the dividend.
The Senate’s floor session has been pushed back and back and it sounds like it will take place at 2:30 p.m.
We’ll have a fuller story on this later, but a few thoughts from Alaska Municipal League’s Nils Andreassen, sent to the Empire this morning:
• The budget passed by the Legislature is very supportive of local governments, economic development and the resilience of Alaskans
• AML is encouraged by the promises kept with the inclusion of funding for school bond debt reimbursement and shared fish taxes
• AML is concerned that the cuts to the ferry system represent an erosion of service that threatens the future sustainability of affordable, dependable public transportation for residents who rely on it
• The uncertainty around FY20 education funding is challenging not just for school districts, but municipalities responsible for contributing to that education
• The threat of vetoes doesn’t strengthen Alaska, and we encourage the governor to continue working with the legislature and local government leaders on solutions that do
Thoughts from Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, via a statement:
“We realize the amount of the Dividend prevented the passage of the budget, and the best way to finalize the Dividend is through a special session solely devoted to the matter. But ultimately, the Dividend must be protected through a constitutional amendment. Until then, the legislature will continue to debate its size, preventing us from concluding our work on behalf of Alaskans.”
For what it’s worth, Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson — who voted for a $3,000 dividend last week but voted today not to try to revive that bill — declined an interview request immediately after the floor session. She said she might be available later in the day.
Speaking to reporters after the floor session, Stedman said he believes it is “very, very, very unlikely” that the Legislature will agree on a PFD amount by the end of the special session Friday. He says the state will have to agree on a dividend by Sept. 1, not by October. So a somewhat tighter timeline there than I thought.
The Senate will now be in recess until 1 p.m. today. That was a much shorter and less wild session than expected.
Interesting vote. The budget, as expected, passes easily. The official tally is 20-0 in favor of passing the budget. Democratic Sens. Jesse Kiehl and Donny Olson both voted no in the first roll call and then switched their votes to yes.
Long story short, the Legislature has passed its budget. The cuts are much lighter than the governor’s proposed cuts but are still pretty sizeable, especially to the ferry system and to Medicaid.
The budget now goes to the governor’s desk for approval. If he vetoes it (or parts of it), the Legislature will have to make changes and get the budget through again before the end of the month to avert a government shutdown (which would happen July 1 if they didn’t have a budget).
In reference to the PFD: Just because the Senate voted not to re-vote on the $3,000 dividend doesn’t mean the Legislature won’t pay a dividend. Basically, many legislators are interested in separating the PFD from the budget so that a budget can get approved as soon as possible. The Legislature is still gridlocked on a PFD amount, but there’s fairly broad agreement on the budget.
So it appears they’ll pass a budget and then figure out what to do on the dividend. That might be this week (this special session ends Friday), or they could adjourn and call another special session at some point before October to figure out the dividend amount. The dividend is paid annually in early October.
Stedman is now explaining some of the changes that are included in this operating budget. One of the big components is that about $10 billion will go from the spendable portion of the Permanent Fund to the constitutionally-protected portion. Stedman says there’s about $65 billion in the spendable fund right now.
That money will be invested and will turn into much more than the $10 billion, Stedman says, describing it as “a colossal sum of money.” And down the line, it will be available for dividends — but not for a long time.
“That money will sit there for generations into the future,” Stedman says.
Now they’re going to discuss/vote on the operating budget. It sounded like most people were preparing for a dramatic showdown today over the PFD, but…they killed the bill within 10 minutes of taking the floor.
Fyi, here’s how the senators voted (the question was whether to re-vote on the $3,000 PFD):
Von Imhof no
House members are in attendance as well, as shown below.
The Senate votes on whether or not to re-vote on the PFD legislation and it fails. Ten votes for, 10 votes against. So that effectively kills the bill, I believe.
One interesting vote: Elvi Gray-Jackson, who voted yes last week on the $3,000 dividend, voted not to re-vote on it today.
We’re under way.
Almost time to go. Senators have been called to the floor.
As reporters approach the floor, Sen. Bert Stedman says, “There’ll be news one way or another today, boys.”
In case you haven’t seen, it was actually a pretty eventful weekend. The conference committee (which includes members from both the House and Senate) approved its compromised version of the budget — without including a Permanent Fund Dividend — and the House almost immediately passed it.
The Senate is set to meet at 11 a.m. today, and is expected to vote on that budget and to re-vote on a bill that would guarantee a full $3,000 dividend, per the Associated Press. It could get interesting out there.
If the operating budget passes the Senate, it would go to the governor’s desk in the coming days.
Last night, the House passed a resolution attempting to create a working group of members of the House and Senate to make recommendations for the future of the PFD. You can read more on that here from the AP.