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 or 523-2258.

More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of Feb. 26

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Monday, Feb. 26, 2024

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

Former state labor commissioner Ed Flanagan, State Rep. Genevieve Mina, D-Anchorage, and the Rev. Michael Burke of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Anchorage wheel boxes of signed petitions into a state Division of Elections office on Jan. 9. The petitions were for a ballot initiative to increase the state’s minimum wage, mandate paid sick leave and ensure that workers are not required to hear employers’ political or religious messages. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Minimum wage increase, ranked choice repeal have enough signatures to be on ballot

A pair of ballot measures have enough public support to appear on… Continue reading

State senators meet with members of the media at the Alaska State Capitol to discuss education legislation after a press conference by Gov. Mike Dunleavy on the topic on Tuesday. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
Dunleavy threatens veto of education bill if more of his priorities aren’t added

It is not certain there would be the 40 votes necessary to override a veto by the governor

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire
Nanibaa’ Frommherz, a student at Thunder Mountain High School, testifies about a proposal to help the Juneau School District with its financial crisis during a Juneau Assembly Committee of the Whole meeting Monday night at City Hall. The meeting was moved from the Assembly Chambers to a conference room toward the end due to technical errors that disrupted the live online feed.
Little public reaction to city’s bailout of school district this year, but big questions beyond loom

Only two people testify Monday about proposed $4.1M loan and taking over $3.9 in “shared costs.”

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024

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

Mauka Grunenberg looks at live oysters for sale on Aug. 29, 2022, at Sagaya City Market in Anchorage. The oysters came from a farm in Juneau. Oysters, blue mussels and sugar, bull and ribbon kelp are the main products of an Alaska mariculture industry that has expanded greatly in recent years. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska’s mariculture industry expands, with big production increases in recent years, report says

While Alaska’s mariculture industry is small by global standards, production of farmed… Continue reading

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola (center) walks with Alaska Rep. Will Stapp, R-Fairbanks, and Alaska Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, into the Alaska House of Representatives chambers ahead of her annual address to the Alaska Legislature on Monday. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
Peltola celebrates federal intervention in Albertsons, Kroger merger in legislative address

Congresswoman says wins for Alaska’s fisheries and state’s economy occurring through collaboration.

Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, speaks in support of Senate concurrence on a version of an education bill passed by the Alaska House last week during a Senate floor discussion on Monday. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Senate concurs on House education bill, Dunleavy is skeptical

Dunleavy schedules press conference Tuesday afternoon in Anchorage to discuss the legislation.

Most Read