$1,600 PFD, restored cuts to operating budget, await Dunleavy OK

Senator Gary Stevens in Cordova on Friday, April 12, 2019. Photo by Emily Mesner/The Cordova Times

Hello from Kodiak. The Legislature is currently in interim status following the adjournment of the 30-day special session that began July 8.

The agenda began with the task of setting this year’s Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) amount through House Bill 2001. Later, the governor added the Fiscal Year 2020 capital budget to the special session call through Senate Bill 2002.

PFD bill

HB 2001 sets this year’s PFD amount at $1,600, which is higher than the dividend’s historical average. Also included in the legislation was the reversal of about 80 percent of the $440 million in cuts the governor made to the legislature’s FY ’20 operating budget. 

As of this writing, HB 2001 is awaiting action by the governor, who can veto the measure in its entirety or utilize his line-item veto authority again. A veto of the PFD amount could necessitate another special session on the matter and also delay the traditional early October dividend distribution date.

Capital budget signed into law

On Aug. 8, the governor signed SB 2002 into law, providing the state’s private sector with $1 billion in federal matching funds for highway and construction projects. SB 2002 also addressed the reverse “sweep issue,” which, among other things, saves Alaska Performance Scholarships for 12,000 college students, and helps reduce energy prices in rural Alaska through the Power Cost Equalization program.

$34.7 million in line item vetoes were made by the governor, the largest being $10 million for matching grants to fund addiction treatment programs. Cuts to funding for homeless programs, earthquake monitoring, home weatherization programs and University of Alaska deferred maintenance were also made.

At this time, it is not known whether there will be a legislative attempt to override the vetoes. A successful override would require support from 40 of the state’s 60 lawmakers.

Next for the Legislature

The Senate president and speaker of the house have requested that the governor call legislators into a third special session to discuss the future of Permanent Fund earnings and the PFD. Debate would include a potential change to the statute used to calculate the dividend. We have yet to hear back from the governor on the proposal.

Barring another special session this year, lawmakers will not return to the capitol until next year. The 2020 legislative session begins Jan. 21.

Passing of Senator Birch

All of us in the legislature are deeply saddened by the death of Anchorage Sen. Chris Birch, who passed away Aug. 7. A gentleman and a statesman, Sen. Birch will be greatly missed around the Capitol and in the Senate.

Chris’s passing is a great loss for me as we worked extremely well together, agreed on most issues and had become close friends. Our thoughts are with his family.

State fish board announcement

The Alaska Board of Fisheries is accepting Agenda Change Requests (ACR) for the 2019-2020 meeting cycle through Monday, Aug. 26. The requests will be reviewed at the board’s October work session in Anchorage.

For the board to approve and schedule an ACR for later in the meeting cycle, the request must meet one of the following criteria:

• For a fishery conservation purpose or reason.

• To correct an error in a regulation.

• To correct an effect on a fishery that was unforeseen when a regulation was adopted.

ACRs may be submitted online at: adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fisheriesboard.forms

By mail at: ADF&G, Boards Support Section       

                   P.O. Box 115526

                   Juneau, AK 99811-5526

By email at: dfg.bof.comments@alaska.gov and by fax at: (907) 465-6094

Back to school

It will not be long until schools around the state reopen. Best wishes to students and educators this school year. As always, please use caution and keep an eye out for kids in the crosswalks when you are traveling near schools.

Local office candidates

Thanks to all who have registered to run for office in the upcoming municipal and borough government and school district elections. I appreciate your willingness to serve District P’s residents and communities.

Many local elections in Alaska take place Tuesday, Oct. 1. The deadline to register to vote in the election is Sunday, Sept. 1.

You can get more information voter register on the Division of Election’s website at elections.alaska.gov.

Assistance with state agencies

Senate District P’s offices are open throughout the interim. Please give us a call if we can be of assistance to you with issues involving the State of Alaska.

You can reach the Capitol office in Juneau at (907) 465-4925 or toll free at 800-821-4925.

My Homer office can be reached at (907) 235-0690.

You can contact the Kodiak office at (907) 486-4925.

E-mail me at Sen.Gary.Stevens@akleg.gov.

My interim address is:

Senator Gary Stevens

305 Center Ave, STE 1

Kodiak, AK 99615

Assistance with the federal government

Should you need help with federal government matters, I advise you to contact the members of Alaska’s Congressional Delegation.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s Anchorage office can be reached at (877) 829-6030.

Sen. Dan Sullivan’s Anchorage Office can be reached at (907) 271-5915.

Rep. Don Young’s Anchorage office can be reached at (866) 990-5979.

Thank you for reading this month’s column, and thanks again to our local media for their assistance in sharing this information with you.