Oh, right. This year’s permanent fund dividend is going to be $1,100.
The Department of Revenue quietly announced the figure, which was set this time by the Legislature and not by Gov. Bill Walker’s veto, on Friday.
Gone this year was all semblance of fanfare around the dividend, and Walker was not included in the announcement. Checks will be going out starting Oct. 5.
The dividend has become a key political issue since Walker issued a veto for half the dividend in 2016. That move has since survived a challenge that reached the Alaska Supreme Court, though its impacts will still likely be felt throughout the next year’s elections.
This time, however, the dividend reduction was approved by the Alaska Legislature before being signed into law by Walker. No veto needed.
The reduction in dividends has been generally accepted as the most substantial fix on the table for the state’s financial crisis. Though no legislation has yet been approved, the idea would be to reduce the annual payout in order to pay for government services.
Even though that’s generally been accepted as the fix for a few years, the Legislature has never been able to reach agreement on a plan or other financial measures.
The House made a largely for-show move of restoring the full funding for the dividend during the final days of budget negotiations. Supporters of the move argued the dividend shouldn’t be reduced without a fiscal plan in place or another tax to balance out the impact across income ranges.
The addition quietly disappeared when the House and Senate finally came together to pass the operating budget and avoid a government shutdown.
The Alaska Dispatch News estimates that a fully funded dividend would have reached $2,235 while the state argues it’d be closer to $2,290.
There’s still really no clear plan for the Legislature to address the state’s fiscal situation and find the balance that some of those legislators had hoped for.
Legislators are set to meet again in Juneau on Oct. 23 to take up some yet-to-be-announced financial measures. It’s likely that a restructuring of a permanent fund—something that’s been approved by both chambers in different forms—and a broad-based tax—most likely a head tax akin to an income tax or a sales tax—would be on the agenda.