State Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, second from left, listens as Rep. Bart LeBon, far left,R-Fairbanks, foreground, speaks during a budget conference committee meeting in Juneau, Alaska, on Sunday, June 13, 2021. Alaska legislators who are leading negotiators on a committee tasked with hashing out differences on a state spending package said they would like to reach a tentative agreement as early as Sunday. (AP Photo / Becky Bohrer)

State Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, second from left, listens as Rep. Bart LeBon, far left,R-Fairbanks, foreground, speaks during a budget conference committee meeting in Juneau, Alaska, on Sunday, June 13, 2021. Alaska legislators who are leading negotiators on a committee tasked with hashing out differences on a state spending package said they would like to reach a tentative agreement as early as Sunday. (AP Photo / Becky Bohrer)

Lawmakers reach tentative deal on budget, dividend

Negotiators reached a tentative agreement Sunday on a package that includes an estimated $1,100 PFD.

By Becky Bohrer

Associated Press

Alaska budget negotiators reached a tentative agreement Sunday on a state spending package that includes an estimated $1,100 dividend for residents this year.

But the check size could be cut to $525 a person if the House or Senate fails to muster sufficient support surrounding use of budget reserve funds to help pay for the dividends, according to information provided by the Legislative Finance Division.

Dividends have typically been paid using earnings from the state’s oil-wealth fund, the Alaska Permanent Fund. But the budget compromise reached Sunday would cobble together money for dividends from various sources, including the constitutional budget reserve fund that requires three-fourths support in each the House and Senate to tap.

Sen. Bert Stedman, one of the lead budget negotiators, said the budget maneuver “certainly encourages some folks to seriously consider what … position they’re going to take” on the constitutional budget reserve.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, on social media, said with the conference committee proposal the dividend is again “a political football subject to the whims of politicians” and called it proof that a dividend should be enshrined in the state constitution.

A longstanding formula for calculating dividends was last used in 2015, and dividends have become a perennial and politically charged debate. Despite various ideas that have been floated, including from Dunleavy, lawmakers have yet to coalesce behind a plan to possibly reshape the program long term. A number of lawmakers have pushed back against the assumptions underpinning Dunleavy’s dividend proposal, which has seen little momentum during the current special session.

Lawmakers in 2018 began using permanent fund earnings to help pay for government and sought to limit withdrawal amounts for dividends and government expenses. One of the debates this year has been over whether to exceed to the draw amount. The limit would be maintained under the budget proposal that advanced Sunday, said Alexei Painter, director of the Legislative Finance Division.

Rep. Bart LeBon, a member of the House’s minority Republican caucus who served on the budget conference committee, supported the dividend language, which he said was “probably more my position” than a caucus position. He said he was concerned about exceeding the draw limit.

Rep. Mike Prax, a fellow Republican who was visiting with LeBon in LeBon’s office after the conference committee meeting, expressed concerns with the dividend approach in the tentative agreement.

“My thought is, if we don’t have a commitment, really, to solve the long-term problem, there’s no point in agreeing to a short-term solution,” he said.

The budget package that advanced from the six-member conference committee must go to the full House and Senate for consideration. Senate President Peter Micciche and House Speaker Louise Stutes said votes in their respective chambers could happen Tuesday.

Lawmakers have until Friday to complete their work in this special session, called by Dunleavy in part to finish the budget. The new fiscal year starts July 1.

More in News

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, yellow, emerging from the surface of cells, blue/pink, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, NIAID-RML
COVID at a glance for Thursday, July 29

The most recent state a local figures

Rico Lanáat’ Worl’s “Raven Story Forever” design is shown here. There will be a release ceremony for the stamp on Friday. (Courtesy Image / Sealaska Heritage Institute)
Release ceremony planned for Raven stamp

Public is invited, but it will also be livestreamed.

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Thursday, July 29, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Shoppers wear masks inside of The Cool store in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reversed course Tuesday, July 27, 2021, on some masking guidelines, recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the coronavirus is surging. City and Borough of Juneau officials are considering extending local mitigation measures that advise residents to wear masks when in indoor public spaces. (AP Photo/ Marcio Jose Sanchez)
City assembly to revisit mitigation measures

A special meeting is set for Wednesday evening

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Wednesday, July 28, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Tuesday, July 27, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

It's a police car until you look closely. The eye shies away, the . (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Friday, July 23, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This undated photo shows a sunset. (Courtesy Photo / Gary Miller)
Wild Shots: Photos of Mother Nature in Alaska

Reader-submitted photos of Southeast Alaska.

Most Read