Just incredible

If you can say anything about the Alaska Legislature you safely can say it has a tin ear.

After telling Alaskans the state cannot afford a full, statutory Permanent Fund dividend that would put about $3,000 in each Alaskan’s pocket, lawmakers turn around and authorize themselves to pick up per diem for the just completed special session – despite a law that says they cannot.

The Legislative Council, which handles the Legislature’s interim business, approved the retroactive payments as the special session ended. Sen. Gary Stevens, the panel’s chairman, says lawmakers can decide whether they want the $302 a day allowance.

If all 57 lawmakers who do not live in Juneau claim the $302 per diem for each day of the special session they failed to pass a budget – 26 days beginning May 16 and ending June 10 – the tab would be about $447,564, or more than $17,000 a day. The total would fund something like 149 full dividends all by itself.

It is not the first time lawmakers have turned a blind eye to Alaska law.

Last year, monied Outside interests were trying to push the Alaska Governmental Accountability Act, which supposedly was aimed at curbing lawmakers’ conflicts of interests and contacts with lobbyists. For good measure, it would have made per diem contingent on lawmakers passing a fully funded budget.

Legislators passed their own measure mirroring the initiative to head it off, even including a ban on per diem payments if there is no operating budget by the 121st day of the Legislature.

Many lawmakers are refusing to vote for a Permanent Fund dividend calculated under a law passed in 1982 and still in effect. Instead, they say Alaska no longer can afford to use that statute – and simply want to ignore it. Now, they want to ignore a law they passed barely a year ago to collect per diem.

How are Alaskans to respect the law and the Legislature when lawmakers are so cavalier about Alaska’s laws.

Just incredible.

6 Responses to Just incredible

  1. RevBill June 14, 2019 at 11:14 am

    This deserves a taxpayer lawsuit! Or perhaps as many lawsuits as there are legislators.

    Reply
  2. Don Haase June 14, 2019 at 1:20 pm

    How much additional money would they have saved by following the law concerning a 90 day session that is also still on the books?

    Reply
  3. Marlin Savage June 14, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    Kind of like mayor berky: says city has no money, but spends millions on homeless, to no avail, then decides to spend $5 MILLION on the Town Square that looks just fine as it is……

    Reply
  4. Richard Russell June 15, 2019 at 2:01 am

    Make your votes count come next election. All those legislators that turned their backs on Alaskans have got to go.

    Reply
  5. Randy S. Griffin Fairbanks Alaska June 15, 2019 at 7:28 am

    The difference between the legislators getting per diem, and citizens getting an extra big PFD (beyond a balanced budget), is that the legislators put in working hours to earn their pay, whereas the citizens did not do any work to earn the dividend.

    The reason it took longer than 121 days to come up with an operating budget is not because the legislators were goofing off or playing hooky from the legislative sessions. Rather it is because of the diverse and strong viewpoints coming from all directions (including the governor’s office) and the time needed to let the citizens have a chance to testify.

    Now that the operating budget has been passed, I think it is proper for the hardworking legislators to get paid their per diem.

    Here are a few excerpts from the Alaska Statue that covers this issue:

    “Sec. 24.10.130. Moving expenses and per diem allowance.
    …..

    (b) Legislators and officers and employees of the legislative branch of government may be entitled to a per diem allowance; however, if a bill that fully funds an operating budget has not, within the first 121 consecutive days of a regular legislative session….
    been passed by the legislature, a member of the legislature is not entitled to a daily per diem allowance for a day the legislature is in session after that 121-day period until the first day after a bill that fully funds an operating budget is passed….

    (c) The Alaska Legislative Council shall adopt a policy in accordance with (b) of this section and AS 39.23.540(d) regarding reimbursement for moving expenses and payment of a per diem allowance. The policy must set conditions for the reimbursement for moving expenses and payment of per diem and prescribe the amounts of reimbursement adapted to the special needs of the legislative branch as determined by the council.”

    Reply
  6. Cynthia Castanon June 15, 2019 at 12:57 pm

    Time to vote those people out!! Names Please!!!

    Reply

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