Time is running out on the special session and hope has vanished for a fiscal plan, so the House decided it might as well fully fund this year’s permanent fund dividend.
In a surprise amendment to the capital budget put forward this morning by Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, the House put about $700 million in the capital budget for PFDs. The money was intended to go to government as part of the restructure of the Alaska Permanent Fund, but that—and the fiscal plan—appear doomed, at least for now.
“At this point it looks like we may be leaving this building with only a budget and without a comprehensive plan including, most importantly, revisions to oil taxes,” LeDoux said. “Without this amendment, we are headed to a budget which reduces the people’s PFD and to this, Mr. Speaker, I say not only ‘No,’ but ‘Hell no.'”
LeDoux confirmed the last few days’ speculation that the Legislature will be lucky to get the budget passed by Friday, let alone a fiscal plan of any sort. The 30-day special session expires on Friday.
LeDoux frequently mentioned oil and gas taxes, and tax credits throughout her speech, underlining the biggest point of contention between the House and Senate. Neither appears willing to budge.
Many minority Republicans registered their distaste with the mentioning of oil and gas taxes, but hopped on board with the amendment.
The amendment passed 26-14.
Floor debate on the capital budget is ongoing. The House Majority refused to allow a vote on an amendment to restore the 2016 dividend.
Why this amendment
Though no legislation has made it to Gov. Bill Walker’s desk that would actually restructure the permanent fund, the operating budgets passed by the House and Senate only contained about half of the money for the dividend. With the operating budget in conference committee, the capital budget was the only vehicle to restore funding for this year’s dividend.
Don’t get too excited about a bigger dividend this fall, though. Walker vetoed half the dividend last year when the Legislature also failed to send him a restructure of the permanent fund. With his insistence on a fiscal plan, he’s likely to do the same this year.
The move is likely a sign of posturing against the Senate. LeDoux’s explanation of the amendment framed the decision as one between oil and gas taxes and the dividend. If the Senate wants to pay out $288 million in oil and gas credits without reopening oil and gas taxes, then the House is going fight for a full dividend, she argued. The Alaska Dispatch News’ Nat Herz also reports the discussion over tax credits is quickly unraveling.