Leaders of the Alaska House majority have introduced a bill that would set permanent fund dividends at roughly $900. That’s a little more than half of the $1,600 dividends paid out the last two years and significantly less than the roughly $3,000 Gov. Mike Dunleavy wants under the formula set in state law.
House Bill 306 would change the formula for paying PFDs. Dividends would be one-fifth of the state’s annual draw from permanent fund earnings. The rest of the draw would pay for government services.
Anchorage Republican Representative Chuck Kopp is the chair of the House Rules Committee, which introduced the bill.
“This bill introduces stability,” he said. “It shows a clear picture of what we need to do going forward, and gives a sustainable dividend for future Alaskans.”
The bill would close roughly 90% of the $1.5 billion gap between what the state spends and what it raises in oil royalties, taxes and fees.
Kopp says the House majority supports the philosophy behind the bill, but the details will have to be worked out in the House Finance Committee.
Defenders of the dividend note that it’s a significant share of lower-income Alaskans’ income. Kopp says the proposed formula would provide stability to both the state’s economy and to dividends.
“We are the only state that gives away money to every man, woman and child,” he said. “I don’t think it was ever meant to be a public assistance program. Certainly, we have many Alaskans who are dependent on it, and I’m very sensitive to that.”
Wasilla Republican Representative Cathy Tilton is the leading minority-caucus Republican on the finance committee. She expressed skepticism toward the concept.
“My initial reaction is that this bill weighs heavily toward government spending and not so much toward the people,” she said. “So, it is not a bill that I can support at this particular time. I do look forward to conversation and that maybe we’ll be able to come closer together.”
Tilton wants the bill to require a vote by the public on the formula change. And she wants a constitutional amendment to limit state spending.
The finance committee is scheduled to discuss the bill next week.