Speaker of the Alaksa House of Representatives Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, speaks to lawmakers on Jan. 18, 2022. In a statement Wednesday the House Majority Coalition announced a $1,300 boost to this year's Permanent Fund Dividend. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file)

House leadership proposes $1,300 ‘energy relief check’

Payment would add to this year’s dividend

As the state’s budget starts to take shape, the House Majority Coalition Wednesday proposed issuing an additional $1,300 with this year’s Permanent Fund Dividend in a one-time “energy relief check.”

In a statement the coalition said the checks will help supplement Alaskans amid rising fuel costs, record inflation, and recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With the influx of new revenue, we are in a position to provide an Energy Relief Check to Alaskans and that is exactly what the House Coalition intends to do,” said House Speaker Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak.

For ease of distribution, checks would be included with this year’s dividend, with the qualifications for the Energy Relief Check being the same as the Permanent Fund Dividend, according to coalition spokesperson Joe Plesha. Lawmakers have offered various proposals for this year’s PFD, but budget bills are still being finalized, and are subject to change by floor vote.

[Delegation urges energy production following State of the Union]

The House Finance Committee is taking public comment Thursday and Friday at 1:30 p.m. on versions of the operating and mental health budgets as finance committees in both bodies start to refine this year’s budget bills. Senate Finance Committee has previously heard public testimony on proposals for this year’s PFD, where several callers chastised lawmakers for not paying dividends according to any set formula.

Lawmakers have been trying to reform the state’s dividend formula for years and many have coalesced around some version of a 50-50 split of the state’s annual draw from the Alaska Permanent Fund, with half going to the PFD.

In a statement, Gov. Mike Dunleavy noted the coalition cited the same high revenue forecasts the governor has used to argue for paying a larger PFD.

“For months now, I have been pointing out that rising oil prices are benefitting government finances but are hurting Alaskans,” Dunleavy said. “For years I have been asking the Legislature to either follow the statutory PFD formula or to change it with the approval of the people.”

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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