For the second day in a row, the six-member bicameral conference committee continued negotiations on the state budget and on Tuesday afternoon reached agreement on an amount for the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend.
Conference committee members on Tuesday agreed to a budget amendment that would pay about $2,500 for this year’s dividend, with an additional energy relief payment of $1,300 for a total of about $3,800.
The Senate appropriated $5,500, a combination of a $4,200 statutory dividend and a $1,300 energy relief check, but several lawmakers called the amount irresponsible and a vote of approval. failed in the House of Representatives.
Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, a member of the conference committee that voted for the full dividend, said he supports the lower amount in the spirit of compromise.
“I know a lot of Alaskans would love to see a full PFD,” Wielechowski said. “That’s 90% of a full PFD.”
Committee members also split the funding sources for these two payments, with the dividend coming from the state’s general fund and half of the $1,300 payment coming from the Constitutional Budget Reserve. To gain access to the CBR, lawmakers need a three-quarters vote in both bodies, which is not a guarantee, especially in the deeply divided House where the majority coalition has only 21 members.
The committee accepted most of the Senate appropriations in the capital budget and quickly reviewed hundreds of line items. The committee approved several appropriations that only come into effect if related legislation is passed. The committee accepted the Senate’s proposal to add $394 million to the state’s Higher Education Investment Fund, if Bill 322, establishing the fund alone, is passed.
The end of the legislative session is Wednesday, May 18, and both bodies of the legislature must approve committee changes if the budget is to pass. Only a simple majority vote in each body is required to adopt a conference committee budget.
The conference committee finalized the budget process shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday, sending the bill to the Legislative Finance and Legal Services Division for review and any technical changes. Once this process is complete, lawmakers will vote to move the bill which will then have to wait 24 hours.
“We’ll be here until midnight, maybe later,” Stedman told reporters after the committee meeting. “Tomorrow midnight is the deadline. We have to pass a budget by midnight tomorrow, if it is not passed we will have a special session, be here in June.
Contact journalist Peter Segall at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.