Governor to sign bill Monday, but uncertainty remains over whether he’ll veto PFD amount

Alaska’s governor has several options available to him.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s office announced Friday that the final bill to be passed out of the special legislative session will be signed Monday.

House Bill 2001 contains money for both for the state’s operating budget and the Permanent Fund Dividend. HB 2001 allocates a $1,600 PFD amount, rather than the $3,000 Dunleavy prefers.

It’s not clear what action Dunleavy will take regarding the PFD, and his office did not immediately respond to comment.

The governor has several options when it comes to trying to get a full $3,000 PFD — which he has campaigned on and so far has not compromised on — all them fraught with further political turmoil.

Dunleavy can line-item veto the $1,600 PFD appropriation from the bill and then call the Legislature into a third special session, demanding the full amount be passed. However that option runs the risk of the Legislature still not passing a full PFD and no dividend being allocated come October, when it is normally distributed.

The governor could sign the bill with the $1,600 PFD amount, and then call the Legislature into special session, demanding that the remainder of the funds be allocated. That would again run the risk of the Legislature simply not passing a bill at all or allocating less than the governor promised to voters.

It’s also possible that Dunleavy could sign the bill as is and not call the Legislature to special session, leaving this year’s PFD at $1,600. That last option would be questionable politically for the Republican governor among his conservative base, given he campaigned on a $3,000 PFD with additional back-payments for cuts to the dividend in previous years, and has made that a cornerstone of his administration.

Juneau Democratic Sen. Jessie Kiehl told the Empire he thinks the most likely scenario is that Dunleavy will sign HB 2001, but then call the Legislature back into special session, demanding the rest of the PFD.

“He’s approved parts of the bill so that means he’s not going to veto the bill entirely,” Kiehl said.

Kiehl added, “The Legislature reached an incredibly broad, incredibly bipartisan agreement on what’s necessary for Alaskans,” on the budget. “I’m glad the governor has finally seen some light,” in terms of funding some state programs, Kiehl said.

When HB 2001 was passed by the Alaska Legislature last month, Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, said the bill reversed about 75 percent of the governor’s original $444 million in vetoes from the state budget.

In Friday’s press release announcing the signing of HB 2001, the governor’s office said that funds for Online with Libraries and Live Homework Help would be restored. Those programs would receive $670,900 and $138,200 respectively, totaling $809,100 in total funds.

“Like funds restored earlier in the week for Head Start, Early Childhood Grants and other early learning programs, these decision were made after significant input from Alaskans,” Dunleavy said in a statement. “While we hoped to have these issues cleared up months ago, it’s important we announce these items now before the start of the school year.”

Facing public pressure and a recall effort, the governor restored funds for Head Start and Early Childhood Grants earlier this week, saying at the time that his vetoes had been part of an effort to start a conversation with Alaskans about what they valued most.

A campaign to recall the governor began at the end of July and according to the campaign’s website, has already collected enough signatures to complete the first portion of that effort. The recall campaign needs 28,501 signatures in order to submit an application to the state Division of Elections. The Recall Dunleavy website says that over 29,000 signatures have been collected in the two weeks since the campaign began.

The governor signed the other bill to come out of the Legislature during the special session on Aug. 8. That bill, Senate Bill 2002, contained money for the state capital budget, including several state programs like the Alaska Performance Scholarship and Power Cost Equalization. However, Dunleavy vetoed over $34 million in funds from that bill, including $10 million for addiction treatment facilities.

In Friday’s press release, the governor’s office said that Dunleavy “hoped to have HB 2001 completed this week,” but that “a thorough examination and review of the bill is still being finalized.”


• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.


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