House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt weighs in, taking this opportunity to take a couple shots at the House Majority:
Two months ago, we offered multiple amendments during the budget process that would have ensured that we would avoid costly special sessions. Those amendments were not taken up. Instead, we still stand without an operating budget, a capital budget, a mental health budget, and K-12 education funding.
The House Majority’s refusal to discuss what’s best for Alaska is doing long-term damage. It is well past time for the 24-member House Majority to pass a dividend, an operating budget, and fund education, as is required by the constitution.
Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon released a brief statement a moment ago. He doesn’t say whether the House would approve of a $3,000 PFD, but does say he hopes the Legislature figures out the budget first:
Today’s vote in the Senate perfectly illustrates why an operating budget has not yet been enacted: debate over the amount of this year’s Permanent Fund Dividend is consuming the Legislature. This is why we believe the Legislature should first pass a responsible budget to provide students, elders, and business leaders certainty in the critical services they rely on. Then we can focus on the many important questions surrounding the future of the Permanent Fund.
Dunleavy has gotten even more active on Twitter. He tweeted a personal thank you to all the senators who voted for the PFD. I won’t embed all 10 tweets here but you can find him on Twitter at @GovDunleavy. Here’s an example:
Thank you @AKShelleyHughes for voting to restore the PFD and defend the decades old statutory PFD formula today. Alaskans support and appreciate you. #akleg #akgov— Governor Mike Dunleavy (@GovDunleavy) June 4, 2019
To clarify why the 10-8 vote wasn’t enough: To approve a bill, the House or Senate has to have a majority of its total members — not just those who are present — vote yes. Amendments to a bill only require a majority of those present to pass.
The governor has responded, via two tweets.
Anything short of a full PFD as defined by the law is not acceptable. Alaskans have demanded politicians stop using the PFD as a political piggy bank. #akleg #akgov (2/2)— Governor Mike Dunleavy (@GovDunleavy) June 4, 2019
The Senate adjourned and we’re basically back in the same place we were before this bill was introduced. No PFD legislation. The final day of the special session is in 10 days.
Speaking to media members afterward, Stedman says “we have another almost two weeks left, a week and a half, so we have time.” That’s reminiscent of Stedman’s comments in the final days of the regular session. He said two weeks is a long time in “political time,” and that he was confident the Legislature would have a budget to the governor by the end of regular session.
Well, here we are a month after he said that and there’s no budget and no PFD.
The 10-8 vote (the same vote as the amendment) isn’t enough to pass the bill.
Here’s how they voted (I copied and pasted it from the amendment vote earlier):
Von Imhof no
Shower excused (if he had been here, he would have voted yes)
We’re inching closer to a vote. Everyone’s done with comments. Stedman is back up wrapping up his thoughts on the bill. In reference to the most recent post below, Gray-Jackson, an Anchorage Democrat, voted yes on the amendment to bump up the PFD to $3,000. Had she voted no, it would have failed, 9-9. Gray-Jackson has yet to speak on the floor, but she’s been passing and receiving plenty of notes. I’d keep an eye on her, though based on the last vote it looks like she’ll be voting yes on this.
A reminder: This vote needs 11 votes instead of a simple majority. Even with two members absent, the Senate still needs a majority of the total membership to pass a bill. The amendment, which passed 10-8, didn’t need that kind of majority.
A peek at the tense scene on the floor this morning. Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson, in the blue, is a key vote today.
Sen. Click Bishop is fired up. The Fairbanks Republican says he’s tired of the state spending money with reckless abandon, and his voice is raised pretty high by the time he shoves his microphone down at the end of his comment. He’s voting no.
Here’s a photo of Stedman, who is a fashion icon in the Capitol. I hope the tourists in the gallery behind him caught a glimpse of the watch chain.
Von Imhof, co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, was fired up yesterday about this and is again speaking very assertively. She says that the state will suffer a “self-imposed deficit” if the state pays a dividend of more than $900.
Stedman’s harping on the same basic points he was talking about yesterday. He says a $3,000 PFD this year puts the dividend on an unsustainable path.
“We can just take it from our descendants,” Stedman says. “They’re not here to complain about it. Some of them aren’t even born yet. They can read about it in the history books.”
The second and final amendment is to cut the PFD to $900. Obviously, that fails.
The four “yes” votes: Von Imhof, Birch, Bishop, Kiehl.
Here’s a photo of Birch proposing it. And who is that handsome man in the white blazer behind him? Looks like he’s typing up a riveting Capitol Live post:
Now they’ll vote on the full bill itself.
The amendment passes, 10-8. So the Senate’s PFD proposal changes to a $3,000 dividend.
Here’s how they voted:
Von Imhof no
Coghill ends with an interesting point. He says that as a Baby Boomer, he’s benefitted from so much over the years. And the PFD is a major part of that privilege, he says. He wants future Alaskans to have a similar benefit.
“This generation should not go down with the epitaph, ‘We took it all and left nothing for the next generation,’” he says.
He says he will not be voting for this amendment.
We’re about to have a vote here.
Juneau Sen. Jesse Kiehl speaks in opposition to the $3,000 PFD. He says he There shouldn’t be a line between Alaskans and Alaska’s government, he says, and that forcing a full amendment this year harms future generations.
“This amendment’s not the answer,” Kiehl says.
Sen. John Coghill says something similar.
“What I hear today is putting the people against the government, but Madame President, the people are the government,” Coghill says.
Here’s a photo of Coghill:
Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, is up next.
“I wish we had started with this amendment and then had amendments to try and make it lower,” he says.
He goes on.
“The long-term fix is to do this with with Alaskans, not to Alaskans,” he adds. “…The folks at home are not our enemies. They are our employers.”
He says the $3,000 PFD would rebuild some trust in government.
Actually, sounds like he’s wrapping up. He says he’s going to vote for this amendment. He kept that under 20 minutes or so.
Stedman raises a point of order on the floor (like an objection, but basically saying someone isn’t following the rules exactly right). He argues that Wielechowski should be talking about the merits of the amendment and not just talking about the PFD in general.
Wielechowski responds, saying he believes it’s important to know the background. Then he launches into more documents and articles, as a chuckle runs around the room.
This might essentially be a filibuster. Wielechowski is in favor of a full dividend, and there are a couple members who are also in favor of this amendment who are not present today. Could Wielechowski be trying to delay until more $3,000 PFD supporters are here? There were murmurs in the hallway outside the chambers just a moment ago that that could be the case.
Sen. Bill Wielechowski gives a history lesson about the origins of the PFD, reading documents on the floor. It’s about as exciting as the history lessons you got when you were a kid.
Then he hits his stride, saying that a $1,600 PFD would essentially be a tax on Alaskans.
“This is a staggering loss,” Wielechowski says, for families in particular.
Senate Majority Leader Mia Costello says that both Dunleavy and his Democratic opponent Mark Begich ran on a full dividend, and that 95 percent of voters cast their votes for one of them.
Sen. Bert Stedman is the leader of this push for SB 1002, and says this bill is with long-term sustainability in mind. He says he’d prefer to “err on the side of future Alaskans” in handing out the PFD. Sen. Lora Reinbold rises and speaks in favor of a full dividend, saying that lawmakers would be “law breakers” if they passed a $1,600 PFD, and that it would steal $1,400 from every eligible Alaskan.
Hughes makes an argument that others have made, that Senate Bill 1002 (the one proposed yesterday that’s on the floor) takes money from sources that aren’t the Permanent Fund. For example, it will draw more than $128 million from a fund that provides financial assistance to some of those going to college in state. She calls it “inappropriate” to draw from sources that are not the Permanent Fund.
Not wasting any time. Sens. Shelley Hughes and others have proposed an amendment that would bump up the PFD amount to $3,000.
The Senate has taken the floor. Annoyingly, the voting boards at the front of both chambers are down for repairs, so legislators will have to take a vote by voice.
The Alaska Senate is expected to meet shortly to discuss the elephant that’s been thundering through the halls of the Capitol all session — the Permanent Fund Dividend. Yesterday, as you might have read, the Senate Finance Committee presented a bill that would provide a $1,600 PFD.