Dunleavy calls for state budget, while senators discuss separate PFD bill

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican, talks with reporters about his hope that the Legislature complete its work on the state budget and permanent fund dividends. He sat down with reporters in the governor’s office on Wednesday in the Capitol in Juneau. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO and Alaska Public Media)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy called on lawmakers on Wednesday to send the state budget to his desk.

He also wants permanent fund dividends to be calculated based on the formula set in state law, which would make them roughly $3,000.

“The clock is ticking,” Dunleavy told reporters. “Alaskans are waiting for a budget. And Alaskans are waiting for a decision that hopefully will follow the calculations that we’ve talked about for the PFD. I’m not sure what another week — or two or three weeks — is going to do to change that.”

Wednesday was the 15th day of the special session, which can last up to 30 days. Neither the Senate nor the House of Representatives have work scheduled for the rest of this week.

But meetings have been happening behind closed doors. And Senate President Cathy Giessel, an Anchorage Republican, said the Senate is considering a plan that could bring the session to an end as soon as next week.

That plan involves the Senate debating the amount of the dividend in a bill that’s separate from the operating budget. The bill would also determine how the state would pay for the dividend. The dividend money could come from state savings accounts.

“That is what we’re looking at doing, is actually having a bill that would just have the dividend in it — it’s the amount of the dividend and the fund source,” she said.

Giessel said the Legislature could revisit how dividends are set in future years during a special session later this year. Dunleavy said any change in the dividend formula should go to a vote of the people.

Dunleavy said he’s open to the dividend coming to him in a separate bill. But he wants it to be passed before the budget, and he wants it to be the full amount.

Dunleavy sent a message to state workers Wednesday afternoon, saying layoff notices would go out if the Legislature hasn’t passed a budget by June 14.

Some contracts with state worker unions say the state should “make every effort” to notify workers of layoffs 30 calendar days ahead of time. But the contracts, as well as state law, say the notices must occur at least 10 working days ahead of layoffs.

Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at akitchenman@alaskapublic.org.

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