$3,000 PFD bill dies in Senate procedural vote, operating budget approved

Sen. Coghill during a 2017 floor debate. Coghill currently chairs the Senate Rules Committee. (Photo by Alaska Senate Majority/Flickr)

Supporters hoped time and the return of a few senators would spell success for a bill to pay out a $3,000 PFD, but something changed between last week and today.

With the full membership of the Senate in Juneau, Senate Bill 1002 was officially put to rest on a procedural vote this morning that would have allowed the Senate to take a new vote on the bill after it failed on a 10-8 vote last week with two members absent.

“A no vote would stop the bill,” explained Sen. John Coghill, the North Pole Republican who chairs the Senate Rules Committee. “A yes vote would bring the bill before us. I intend to vote no.”

The motion failed 10-10.

Supporters of the full dividend had hoped the return of Wasilla Republican Sen. Mike Shower would have tipped the scales in favor of passing the bill. Shower has been a vocal proponent of a $3,000 dividend. Shower would have been the 11th vote in favor of the bill last week when he was out because of his job, but today he was just the 10th vote.

That’s because Anchorage Democratic Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson voted against taking a new vote. She had voted in favor of the $3,000 dividend last week.

It’s not immediately clear why she changed position.

Sen. Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, had also been absent during last week’s vote due to work, but his position was more nebulous than Shower’s. He ended up voting against reopening the vote.

The vote to take a new vote is as follows:

YEA: Kawasaki, Micciche, Olson, Reinbold, Shower, Wielechowski, Wilson, Costello, Hoffman, Hughes

NAY: Kiehl, Stedman, Stevens, von Imhof, Begich, Birch, Bishop, Coghill, Gray-Jackson, Giessel

What’s next and the budget

The failure of the SB 1002 is the end of one of multiple still-alive vehicles for a dividend alive in the special session, but it essentially punts the issue over to the House. At the worst, it delays a decision for potentially months.

The House currently has possession of the capital budget as well as House Bill 1005, which would pay out a $1,600 PFD contingent on a revision of the dividend statute. Both could be changed significantly before the end of the session and both are on the House’s agenda for the day.

The operating budget does not contain a PFD after the conference committee agreed to remove it on Saturday. The House approved the budget on Sunday and the Senate approved it today.

The operating budget will soon be in the hands of the governor, who can line item veto any numbers in the budget or veto the entire thing.

Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy has made the dividend his top priority but has stopped short of explicitly saying he’d veto a budget that does not contain a dividend.

Some form of a budget needs to be in place before July 1 or the state would be forced into a government shutdown.

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