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Alaska House debates constitutional amendment guaranteeing Permanent Fund Dividend payment

Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, speaks on the House floor on Feb. 28, 2024.
Eric Stone
Alaska Public Media
Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, speaks on the House floor on Feb. 28, 2024.

The Alaska House of Representatives is mulling an amendment to the Alaska Constitution that would guarantee residents a Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) payment according to a set formula every year. The House began floor debate on the measure Feb. 28.

As it stands, the amount of the PFD is set each year by the Alaska Legislature. That’s the way it’s been since 2016, when then-Gov. Bill Walker vetoed a portion of the dividend. The Alaska Supreme Court upheld the veto, saying that the PFD is subject to the same appropriation and budget process as other state spending.

Prior to that, dividends were paid out according to a formula in state law based on the Permanent Fund’s net income. Though it’s no longer used, the formula remains on the books in state statute. The amendment would require the state to use the old formula unless lawmakers adopt a new one. 

The sponsor of the constitutional amendment, Ways and Means Committee chair Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, said in a statement attached to the proposal that it would protect the dividend from competing with other budget priorities.

But opponents say that the amendment would require the state to pay out dividends it can’t afford under an obsolete formula. A roughly $3,500 dividend under the existing formula would cost the state some $2.3 billion this year, about a third of the state’s general-purpose revenue

Two thirds of the House and Senate must vote for the resolution to place it before voters. A final vote on the measure is expected in the coming days.

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