The Latest: Lawmakers OK creating permanent fund work group
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The Latest on the Alaska Legislature (all times local):
The Alaska Legislature has voted to create a working group to make recommendations on future use of earnings from the state’s oil-wealth fund.
The Senate narrowly approved the resolution Monday. It passed the House Sunday.
The resolution calls for a group of four representatives and four senators to make recommendations to the Legislature. But it gives no firm timeline.
House Speaker Bryce Edgmon said Sunday he thinks there’s a will to get long-term issues regarding the permanent fund resolved this year, during a non-election year.
Sen. Bill Wielechowski said he considered it unlikely that such a group could get lawmakers to change their minds. He says he thinks the issue has gotten to the point where it needs to go to a vote of the people.
The Alaska Legislature has passed a compromise state operating budget, three weeks before the start of the new fiscal year.
The Senate approved the measure Monday, one day after the House. It will go to Gov. Mike Dunleavy next. Dunleavy, who has veto powers, told reporters last week he thinks the budget needs to be smaller.
Debate over the dividend paid to residents from the state’s oil-wealth fund, the Alaska Permanent Fund, had snarled efforts to finalize a budget. The dividend was split from the budget by House and Senate negotiators Saturday, with the expectation that it would be dealt with separately.
The budget proposal would move more than $10 billion from fund earnings, which can be spent, to the fund’s principal, which has constitutional protections.
An Alaska Senate leader says it is unlikely lawmakers will reach agreement on the size of the dividend paid to residents from the state’s oil-wealth fund this year by the end of this special session.
Senate Finance Committee Co-chair Bert Stedman also says a path forward is a resolution passed by the House that calls for creation of a working group to look at future use of Alaska Permanent Fund earnings.
Dividends traditionally have been paid using fund earnings, which lawmakers last year began using to help pay government expenses.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy has said lawmakers should follow a longstanding formula and pay a full dividend. Some lawmakers share his position. But there are legislators who contend the formula is unsustainable.
The 30-day special session limit would be reached Friday.
The Alaska Senate has failed to revive a bill that would pay a full dividend from the state’s oil-wealth fund this year.
Senators deadlocked 10-10 Monday on a vote of whether to rescind their action last week, when they voted down the full payout. The next step for trying to reach agreement on a dividend remains to be seen.
The dividend is one of the last unresolved issues of the special session. Special sessions can last 30 days. That threshold will be reached on Friday.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy has maintained that lawmakers should follow a longstanding formula and pay out a full dividend. Some lawmakers share his position. But there are legislators who contend the formula is unsustainable and outdated.
The Alaska Senate is expected to vote on whether to revive a bill that would pay residents a full dividend from the state’s oil-wealth fund this year.
Senate President Cathy Giessel said Sunday that vote will be taken up after the Senate convenes Monday.
Last week, with one prominent supporter of the proposal absent, the Senate voted down a full dividend payout, which would cost an estimated $1.9 billion for checks estimated to be around $3,000 to qualified residents. The bill was one vote short of passage.
Senators Monday are expected to vote on whether to rescind their action.
The dividend remains one of the last unresolved issues of the special session. Gov. Mike Dunleavy has maintained that lawmakers should follow a longstanding formula and pay out a full dividend.