Senate president conflicts with governor on budget, dividend timeline

A white man in a suit and red tie
Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, during Senate debate. Micciche expects the state will be able to save money on health care costs. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

The president of the Alaska Senate is laying out a different timeline for trying to solve Alaska’s long-term budget problem than Gov. Mike Dunleavy. 

Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, welcomed Dunleavy’s call for a special session in August to address the state’s long-term budget problem. 

But Micciche said Friday lawmakers are trying to finish their work on the budget by Wednesday — the end of the regular session. And he questioned whether this month is the right time to consider changes to the Alaska Permanent Fund without other large budget changes.

Dunleavy issued the first of two special session calls for Thursday to finish the budget and pass a constitutional amendment regarding the Permanent Fund. 

Micciche said it may be more appropriate for the Legislature to consider Permanent Fund dividends along with other issues in August. 

“We have to take the PFD issue off the table. And whatever solution that is has to be funded,” he said. “But people (will) have been here for 121 days by then. And those are big items.”

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House Speaker Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, has praised Dunleavy for engaging with legislators on major long-term issues. But she agreed with Micciche that it would be difficult to pass the governor’s plan for dividends before considering other legislation. The plan would devote 50% of the annual draw from the Permanent Fund for dividends. 

“How can you put a 50% PFD out there with no way to pay for it?” Stutes said, while emphasizing that this was her personal view and that the House majority caucus has to discuss the special session plan.

The first special session would begin on Thursday, the day after the regular special session is scheduled to end.

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