The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

Associated Press 

Dunleavy to file bill to restore PFD funds


October 13, 2016 | View PDF

(AP) - State Sen. Mike Dunleavy, from Wasilla, announced, last Wednesday afternoon in Anchorage that he would file a bill that would restore the half of PFD checks eliminated by Gov. Bill Walker’s vetoes.

Dunleavy said the bill would be filed as soon as possible and he will ask to have an expedited hearing in the hopes of getting remaining PFD funds in the hands of Alaskans sometime in February.

“While additional revenue in the form of taxes and use of the Permanent Fund may be inevitable in the future, Alaska’s private economy is currently suffering,” Dunleavy said in a press release. “Thousands have lost their jobs, representing billions in lost income. In addition, individual Alaskans — some of whom were laid off as a result of the crash in oil prices — have struggled to make ends meet.”

Dunleavy said in an interview in his office that two factors were key in the idea — that the private economy in Alaska is hurting significantly, and that the half of the PFD’s Alaskans aren’t getting, aren’t being spent on government or its programs; they’re sitting in the Earning Reserves Account.

“Everyone is worried about cash flow problems at the government level, but the private economy is falling apart,” Dunleavy said. “We must come up with a fiscal plan this session to pay the state’s bills, but it’s the wrong time to take an additional $666 million out of an already struggling private economy and an additional $1,030 out of the pockets of Alaskans.”

Dunleavy said he supports the lawsuit brought by Anchorage Democratic Sen. Bill Wielechowski challenging Gov. Bill Walker’s constitutional authority to cut the Permanent Fund with his veto, but his angle toward getting Alaskans their full sum, is to reinterpret it as a royalty right.

“Many Alaskans believe the dividend is a ‘royalty’ they are paid because they do not have subsurface right property rights,” Dunleavy said.

Dunleavy says he hopes the issue gets immediate attention once the Legislature convenes in January. If it passes, Walker could veto it. But Dunleavy believes there could be sufficient support to override any veto.

Lawmakers earlier this year declined to hold a veto override session to consider reversing the cut.

This comes as a state court judge plans to hear a lawsuit from Sen. Wielechowski and others challenging the reduction. The parties hope for a decision by early December. However, the matter still could be appealed.

Dunleavy’s Anchorage news conference was interrupted by two men angry about the dividend reduction. Walker has called the cut necessary as the state grapples with a deficit.

Dunleavy says Walker is trying to help the state but he disagrees with the approach Walker took.


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