Front and center in the current crisis has been the question over what to do with the withheld dividend money ($5,044 per Alaskan) that some legislators have prevented the Dunleavy Administration from distributing to Alaskans.
Some have argued, my senator and I among them, that the money belongs to Alaskans and should be distributed according to current state law.
Others have argued that Alaskans must “pitch in” so that sufficient funds are available for state government in the future, and that taking from the PFD has been the best way to generate funds since there isn’t enough support in the legislature to pass new taxes or to rewrite the way the amount of the PFD is calculated in state law.
(The Alaska State House Votes on Whether to Distribute Withheld PFD’s to Alaskans – 3/3/20)
The proposal to distribute past dividends to Alaskans received 12 votes earlier this month; 9 votes short of passing. One pro-PFD legislator was not present for the vote, which means that 9 legislators who opposed distributing past PFD’s (shown in red) would need to be convinced to support the proposal in order for it to be passed by the house.
In the senate, the vote to immediately distribute the remaining portion of the 2019 PFD was much closer, and failed by only one vote.
(The Alaska State Senate Votes on Whether to Distribute the Withheld 2019 PFD to Alaskans – 3/23/20)
The proposal to restore the portion of the 2019 PFD that had been withheld was put forward in the State House as a separate proposal, but was blocked by a vote of 22 to 15 (with the legislators who refused to even let the proposal be debated shown in green below).
(The Alaska State HOUSE Votes TO DENY Distribution of Withheld 2019 PFD to Alaskans – 3/3/20)
One pro-PFD legislator was not present for the vote, leaving the 2019 PFD now 5 votes short of passing.
I’ve been told that the Operating Budget Conference Committee will be meeting today and making final decisions on this year’s PFD and on distributing funds to Alaskans who were denied full PFD’s previously. The Conference Committee has 6 members (3 from the House and 3 from the Senate).
Those shown in green above can decide to change their vote and support restoring the 2019 PFD at any time. Of the six members of the Conference Committee, 2 voted to restore the 2019 PFD this year (Olson and Tilton), and 4 voted against restoring the 2019 PFD (Foster, Johnston, Stedman, and Von Imhof).
The legislators in green above hold the power today, but that could change if as few as five legislators in the house, and 1 legislator in the senate, decide to support restoring the full 2019 PFD.
You can find contact information for members of the senate here.
You can find contact information for members of the house here.