‘Compromise’ budget, but no dividend … yet
While the Senate approved a $4.4 billion “compromise” operating budget, it effectively killed the $3,000 Permanent Fund dividend backed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
The Senate yesterday voted on whether to reconsider its 10-8 vote last week in favor of the $3,000 dividend. Eleven votes were needed for it to pass and Sens. Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, and Mike Shower, R-Wasilla, were absent.
Yesterday’s vote failed 10-10, with Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson, D-Anchorage, flipping her vote from last week.
Those who voted to reconsider: Sens. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, David Wilson, R-Wasilla, Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, D-Anchorage, Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, Shelly Hughes, R-Palmer, Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, Danny Olson, D-Golovan, Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, and Mike Shower.
Voting against: Sens. Chris Birch, R-Anchorage, Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, John Coghill, R-North Pole, Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, Natasha von Imhof, R-Anchorage, Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, Elvi Gray-Jackson, D-Anchorage, and Tom Begich, D-Anchorage.
The vote likely sets the stage for a second special session to deal with the dividend. A legislative task force put together to mull the dividend likely will agree to a much smaller dividend. Four members of each chamber will comprise the group.
SB 1002, the budget legislation in question, initially would have handed Alaskans a $1,600 dividend. It was amended to $3,000, the amount calculated under a 1982 law that set out how the payout was to be calculated. That formula was ignored for the past three years, first by former Gov. Bill Walker, and then the Legislature.
Now, lawmakers are making noises about changing that law, saying the dividend amounts it allows are unsustainable. In English, that means there is not enough money to fund our oversize government and lawmakers must be able to take Alaskans’ dividends if there is a need.
Supporters of full dividends argue the payouts are required by law and are Alaskans’ share of the state’s oil wealth. The argument against is that the state cannot sustain a full dividend and protect the Permanent Fund’s Earnings Reserve, where the dividends come from.
From where we sit, the compromise budget is not much of a budget at all, what with education funding, the dividend and other matters unfunded and unresolved, and the fireworks may not be over. Dunleavy has vowed that if there is no $3,000 dividend, as required by the law, he will wield his veto pen.
It will be interesting to watch some lawmakers – especially the Senate’s “nay” voters – squirm if the governor does, in fact, call a second special session in Wasilla, where the public can weigh in much more easily than if the proceedings were isolated in Juneau.