Alaska Senate votes for bigger dividend during budget debate

The Alaska Senate has voted for dividends of about $4,200 to residents this year, plus “energy relief” checks of $1,300, as its work on a state budget plan continued.

The Senate late Monday voted 10-9 on the dividend amendment, which would cost nearly $2.8 billion. The dividend amendment calls for checks to be calculated in line with a formula last used in 2015. Many lawmakers have argued the formula is unsustainable but the Legislature has not set a new one.

The state Supreme Court has ruled that absent a constitutional amendment, the dividend must compete for funds like other state programs. One year of funding for K-12 public schools, for comparison, is about $1.2 billion.

The cost of the energy payment, which the Senate approved adding earlier Monday, is estimated at $840 million.

Supporters of the Senate approach said Alaskans can use the help. Critics said it is not fiscally prudent.

The Senate was expected to resume debate on its version of the budget Tuesday.

Republican Sen. Mike Shower said the higher dividend amount could be a negotiating point between the House and Senate. The House, in its version of the budget, approved a roughly $1,250 dividend and a $1,300 energy check.

Differences between the budgets that pass each chamber are typically settled in a conference committee.

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