By James Brooks
Alaska Beacon 

House and Senate about $700 apart on this year's PFD


The Alaska Senate is moving toward a final vote on its draft state spending plan for the coming fiscal year, with senators expected this week to approve a budget that includes enough money to pay a 2024 Permanent Fund dividend estimated at $1,580.

The Senate’s draft operating budget is different from one passed last month by the House which included a $2,270 proposed PFD.

Senate action will trigger the creation of a conference committee charged with writing a compromise budget deal to fund state services after July 1, the start of the fiscal year.

The state budget is typically among the most contentious items on the legislative calendar.

It isn’t certain whether that will be the case this year. Large policy battles — over education, a looming Railbelt energy crunch, and crime legislation — still await lawmakers. There are relatively few differences between the House and Senate spending plans.

Sitka Sen. Bert Stedman, co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee in charge of the operating budget, said that when it comes to differences between House and Senate on the budget, the Permanent Fund dividend is “the big elephant in the middle making a mess.”

The key difference between the House and Senate plans, lawmakers say, is the way they spend a small surplus anticipated at the end of the current fiscal year on June 30.

Last year, Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed $200 million from the budget passed by Legislators, much of that from school funding. That cut, plus higher-than-forecast oil revenue, is expected to result in a surplus when the fiscal year ends.

The House plans to divert most of that surplus to an “energy relief” payment included in its proposed PFD.

But senators believe the House plan is unrealistic. When combined with other state spending, including on construction projects and pending legislation, the House plan is in deficit by about $270 million, said Alexei Painter, director of the Legislature’s budget analysis department.

“In order to make the appropriations they have work, they need to find $270 million of reductions somewhere,” Painter said in response to a question from Stedman.

So far, those reductions haven’t materialized.

The Senate’s proposal includes estimates of $222 in energy relief atop a $1,360 dividend, producing a balanced budget. The Senate payment would total almost $700 less per Alaskan than the House plan.

The Alaska Beacon is an independent, donor-funded news organization.


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