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Bill to Restore 2016 PFD Checks Announced

Superior Court will expedite lawsuit



October 06, 2016
Thursday PM

(SitNews) Anchorage, Alaska - Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R) announced a bill Wednesday to restore the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) amount to $2,052, as originally calculated by the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation (APFC).

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"This bill will be pre-filed as soon as possible and I will ask for an expedited hearing when the Legislature convenes on January 17, 2017," said Sen. Dunleavy. "My hope is that members of the House will file a companion bill and that an expedited hearing will lead to its passage early enough in the session to allow the remainder of the PFD to be mailed to each Alaskan in early 2017."

"Glad to see a bill being proposed to restore the full PFD," wrote Senator Bill Wielechowski (D) on his FaceBook page on Tuesday in response to Sen. Dunleavy's announcement. "But why did the Majority all vote against my motion to go into joint session months ago to do exactly this?"

Alaska residents have received a dividend since 1982, when the first check was cut for $1,000. This past session, however, Governor Bill Walker vetoed the Legislature's appropriation for the payment, reducing the dividend amount from approximately $2,052 to $1,022.

"With the dramatic drop in oil prices, Alaska is experiencing budget deficits of approximately $3.5 billion annually," said Sen. Dunleavy. "While additional revenue in the form of taxes and use of the Permanent Fund may be inevitable in the future, Alaska's private economy is currently suffering. Thousands have lost their jobs, representing billions in lost income. In addition, individual Alaskans – some of whom were laid off as a result of the crash in oil prices – have struggled to makes ends meet."

"Many Alaskans believe the dividend is a 'royalty' they are paid because they do not have subsurface property rights," Sen. Dunleavy added.

A lawsuit has been filed to determine if the governor had the legal right to veto a portion of the dividend. While it is unclear if the courts will restore the vetoed amount, Alaska residents will shortly be issued a check for half the amount calculated by the APFC under state law and approved by the Legislature.

"Alaska families and businesses are teetering on the brink," said Sen. Dunleavy. "We must come up with a fiscal plan this session to pay the state's bills, but it's the wrong time to take an additional $666 million out of an already struggling private economy and an additional $1030 out of the pockets of Alaskans."

On September 17, 2016, Senator Wielechowski and former Senators Clem Tillion, Rick Halford filed a lawsuit seeking to compel the Permanent Fund Corporation to transfer the amount necessary to pay all Alaskans a full PFD. The lawsuit challenged Alaska Governor's Walker's veto of half the money appropriated to permanent fund dividends reducing the dividend payout from $2,052 to $1,022.

On October 3, 2016, Senator Wielechowski announced on his FaceBook page that he and his co-counsel Andy Erickson had met with the Alaska Attorney General to discuss the PFD lawsuit. "We have jointly submitted a request that the Superior Court expedite this matter. We are asking that legal briefs be filed October 28, 2016, responses to those briefs be filed November 10, 2016 and we have oral argument before the Court during the week of November 14-18. We are requesting the Court issue a decision by December 2, 2016."

In response to Wielechowski's request that the lawsuit be expedited, Governor Bill Walker said in a prepared statement on Tuesday, “I have asked Senator Wielechowski to join the State in requesting an expedited review of his lawsuit challenging my veto of half the amount of money allotted to permanent fund dividend disbursements."

The Governor said, " Alaskans deserve a definitive answer as we gear up for a legislative session in which bold action is required to finally fix our fiscal deficit. The State’s budget has shrunk 44 percent in the past four years, while we have drawn $12.6 billion from our savings accounts since 2013. Much as a family would after losing nearly 90 percent of its household income, Alaska must continue to make cuts, find new sources of revenue and use the interest from the wealth that we have accumulated."

" I know my decision to veto the dividend appropriation has not been popular. It was an action I did not make lightly. It was necessary, however, to keep the nearly $667 million in the earnings reserve account to ensure PFDs for future generations of Alaskans,” said Governor Walker

On Tuesday, October 4th Senator Wielechowski wrote, "Judge Morse has agreed with our proposed schedule to expedite the PFD lawsuit. Both sides will file initial briefs by October 28 and responses by November 10. Oral argument is scheduled for November 17 from 9-11am. The date for a court decision is not yet finalized."




Source of News:

Office of Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R, Mat-Su & Copper River Valleys)

Senator Bill Wielechowski (D)



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