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Alaska House passes bill finalizing budget; Senate to consider

Posted & Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN


September 02, 2021
Thursday PM

(SitNews) Juneau, Alaska - The Alaska House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a bill that took the first step toward finalizing this year’s budget, including payment of an $1,100 Permanent Fund Dividend for every Alaskan. House Bill 3003 passed 24-to-16 with unanimous support from the Alaska House Coalition.

HB 3003 included a $2,350 PFD but on Tuesday, August 24th, the House Finance Committee amended the Bill to reduce the PFD to $1,100. The Bill was also amended to pay over $100 million in owed oil tax credits.

In August 2021, Governor Michael Dunleavy expanded the third special session and introduced a budget bill to provide for a $2,350 Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) and fully fund Alaska’s student scholarship programs.This followed the release of the legislative Fiscal Policy Working Group’s report, and conversations between the Dunleavy administration and legislative leadership.

Dunlevy said at the time he introduced a budget bill in August, “Alaskans are still in recovery mode from the economic impacts of the pandemic. With this in mind, and following recent encouraging conversations with legislators, my administration has put forth a vehicle for the legislature to fund the PFD and student scholarships – two critical programs that directly impact Alaskans,” said Governor Dunleavy. “We recognize there may be other appropriations the legislature will consider as we work collaboratively to finalize the FY 22 budget in this special session; but I am committed to ensuring Alaskans get a fair share of their resource wealth.”

HB 3003 was moved out of the House Finance Committee on Wednesday, August 25th. After a lengthy amendment process, the Bill passed the House on Tuesday, August 31st. Some of the highlights of the appropriations Bill follows: 

  • Fully funds Alaska's student scholarship programs
  • $3.3 million to WWAMI Medical Education
  • $1.47 billion one-time transfer from the earnings reserve account to the CBR (Constitutional Budget Reserve)
  • $11.7 million to Alaska performance Scholarship Awards
  • $1,100 PFD

However, prior to the vote in the House, Governor Dunleavy Directed Immediate Funding of Student Scholarships, WWAMI Program, Other Critical Programs on August 26, 2021. In addition to HB 3003, there are several other bills introduced on new revenues and more. 

“Today’s outcome provides certainty to Alaskans after the dividend was vetoed earlier this summer that much-needed cash will land in their bank accounts this fall," Speaker Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak) said.

Stutes said, "The dividend that found consensus is the most the state can afford to pay until Alaska's structural budget deficit is resolved, a task we remain committed to taking on in the months ahead.”

Rep. Calvin Schrage (I-Anchorage), who served on the Fiscal Policy Working Group, added, "The job isn't finished, but today was a step in the right direction that we took care of our most pressing concern—that Alaskans will receive a healthy dividend after it was vetoed earlier this summer. I look forward to the work we have ahead of us to resolve the recommendations of the Fiscal Policy Working Group."

After passage by the House, HB 3003 was sent to the Alaska Senate for consideration.

In a newsletter released by Alaska Senator Tom Begich Tuesday he wrote, "By now, you’ve probably read that things are a series of fits and starts in Juneau. At the beginning of the special session, the  Fiscal Policy Working Group introduced their recommendations. There’s a lot on their list that isn’t new, but a few things really stand out as a responsible way to get our state’s finances headed in a stable direction".

Further Sen. Begich wrote, "Now, it’s time for the hard work. Our regular and deliberative leadership meetings amongst the four caucus leaders and the Governor’s office focus on how to make a fiscal policy work for Alaska. Discussions continue to be illuminating as we work our way to figure out how to ensure the needs of Alaskans are met and the state fulfills its constitutional obligations."

"I don’t pretend to say that it's all downhill from here. There are still the issues of the reverse sweep, the 2021 PFD, school bond debt reimbursement, and per barrel oil tax credit reductions. But, If we can’t come together and figure this out now, Alaska is definitely in for a rough road," wrote Begich.

On the Web:

House Bill 3003

Amendments to HB 3003

Fiscal Notes

Fiscal Policy Working Group report (pdf)

Governor's expanded special session scope enables lawmakers to appropriate PFD and restore funding to vital programs
SitNews - August 23, 2021


Source of News:

Alaska House Majority Coalition

Sen. Tom Begich
Newletter - Tuesday - Aug. 31, 2021

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