Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, center, talks to Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, left, and Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla during a break in the floor session Friday, March 30, 2018. (James Brooks | Juneau Empire)

Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, center, talks to Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, left, and Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla during a break in the floor session Friday, March 30, 2018. (James Brooks | Juneau Empire)

Legislators move to reverse proposed PFD boost

With a rapid series of procedural moves Friday morning, the Alaska House of Representatives cut a proposed $2,700 Permanent Fund Dividend to $1,600 in an attempt to break a deadlock over the state’s operating budget.

With the main divide in the 22-member coalition House Majority now resolved, the path appears clear for a vote to approve the state’s operating budget on Monday. That vote would send the budget to the Senate, which will put its own stamp on the spending plan and return it to the House for further negotiations.

“I am confident we now have the votes to pass the operating budget over to the Senate,” said Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, following the vote.

[Reps. Parish, Kito divided by vote to boost PFDs]

Friday’s votes were a surprise, even to some members of the Legislature. Several members of the House Republican Minority were absent Friday, ahead of a weekend important to adherents of Abrahamic religions.

When the course of the day became apparent, minority members attempted to leave the chamber to huddle and discuss the upcoming votes but were blocked by a procedural action that kept them in the room.

“I assumed we would be doing something on Monday (April 2), and I assumed wrong,” said House Minority Leader Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage, after the day’s work concluded.

Friday’s votes concluded a week of uncertainty in the Legislature that began when House lawmakers voted 21-19 on March 26 to boost a proposed $1,258 dividend to more than $2,700 per person.

That amount is the figure set by the traditional formula, but it was strongly contested by legislators who felt the higher amount would come at the expense of state services including education, public safety and transportation.

“You can’t do both without adopting a rational fiscal plan,” said Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, on Friday.

With the state facing a multibillion-dollar budget deficit, lawmakers are expected to turn to the Permanent Fund to cover the gap. (The state’s traditional savings accounts, the Constitutional Budget Reserve and Statutory Budget Reserve, don’t have enough money.)

A larger dividend, atop that need to fill the gap, would stress the fund, many lawmakers believe. Conversely, many lawmakers also believe that relying on dividend cuts alone to balance the budget unduly penalizes poor Alaskans, for whom the dividend makes up a larger share of their income. Those lawmakers support a progressive income tax and higher taxes on oil production to balance the burden of resolving the deficit.

“This has become a battle between working-class Alaskans … and those that are much better off,” said Rep. Geran Tarr, D-Anchorage.


• Contact reporter James Brooks at jbrooks@juneauempire.com or 523-2258.


More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of June 22

Here’s what to expect this week.

Tim Berry, a Michigan resident visiting Juneau, fishes on a dock Monday near the Douglas Island Pink and Chum Inc.’s Macaulay Salmon Hatchery. A ban catching king salmon near the hatchery and some other Juneau waters is in effect until Aug. 31. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Local king salmon ban not expected to have big impact on summer fishing, but long-term concerns remain

Ban due to 2020 landslide that caused hatchery pipeline break, disrupting multiyear spawning cycle

Juneau School District maintenance and custodial crew work on transitioning Thunder Mountain High School to Thunder Mountain Middle School on Monday. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)
Juneau schools empty out as classrooms and memories transition under consolidation plan

Transitions “ahead of schedule” for school district; use for vacant buildings by CBJ still in question

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Sunday, June 23, 2024

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

Buck Laukitis’ boat, the Oracle, sits in Homer in May before unloading its catch of halibut. (Nathaniel Herz/Northern Journal)
As salmon season kicks off, some Alaska fishermen fear for their futures

Some signs of recovery for $6 billion industry a year into crisis, but major threats persist.

A cartoon sketch is seen on a cubicle in the offices of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. during an open house on Friday, Feb. 16. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
After email leak, some Alaska legislators say they’re skeptical of Permanent Fund’s direction

Members of the Alaska Legislature questioned the direction of the Alaska Permanent… Continue reading

City and state leaders gather Monday at the gangway to Aurora Harbor for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of the third of four stages of reconstruction of the 60-year-old harbor. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Six years and one pandemic later, next stage of Aurora Harbor expansion is complete

New installations allow for longer vessels, provide utilities for final planned phase of project.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Saturday, June 22, 2024

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

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Friday, June 21, 2024

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

Most Read