After a couple of hours of debate on Saturday, the Alaska House of Representatives voted down the full Permanent Fund dividend, which was embedded as an appropriation item in the operating budget sent from the Senate to the House for concurrence.
For years, the Legislature has said it could not pay a full dividend to Alaskans because there was not enough money in the budget, what with the lower prices of oil. But this year, State coffers are flush with money, oil prices are high, the budget is one of the largest in history, and the capital budget is the largest in a decade, and yet the dividend was voted down by the House. Opponents of the larger PFD who spoke on the House floor said it was a bad use of the state’s money. Rep. David Eastman said the budget was too big and was unsustainable. Rep. James Kaufman made a similar argument, saying he wants a fiscal plan. Rep. Bart LeBon said the budget doesn’t balance. Rep. Chris Kurka said that without a guarantee there would be no state funds spent on abortions, he would be a no vote.
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The House will send the rejected budget back to the Senate, which has a choice of backing down from its offer, which includes the full PFD, or naming Senate members to a conference committee to hash out the differences between the House and Senate budgets.
Speaker Louise Stutes named Rep. Kelly Merrick as chair of the House portion of the upcoming conference committee, along with Rep. Bart LeBon and Rep. Daniel Ortiz. All three were “no” votes on the full PFD. Conference committee is made of of three members from each body.
Also voting against the full PFD were Reps. Matt Claman, Harriet Drummond, David Eastman, Bryce Edgmon, Zack Fields, Sara Hannan, Grier Hopkins, Andy Josephson, James Kaufman, Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, Chris Kurka, Calvin Schrage, Liz Snyder, Ivy Spohnholz, Andi Story, Louise Stutes, Geran Tarr, Steve Thompson, and Adam Wool.