Sen. Lyman Hoffman is now one of the more powerful people in the Senate. He became the Senate Majority Leader last summer when former Senate Majority Leader Mia Costello, a Republican, decided to break with the caucus and meet with lawmakers in Wasilla. Hoffman also maintains his seat on the Senate Finance Committee. That means that as lawmakers grapple with a major shortfall in the state budget, Hoffman will be in the middle of all of it.
“Yes,” Hoffman said. “That’s exactly the way I like it.”
One of the big issues of the session will be the size of the Permanent Fund Dividend. Hoffman said that he is putting forth a plan to change the way the dividend is calculated, which would split the fund's earnings in half between the dividend and state spending.
“A 50-50 split should be considered from the formula that we passed two years ago. We will see what happens this next session. It needs to be resolved. Otherwise it will be a political football until it’s resolved,” he said.
The other part of Hoffman’s approach would be to increase oil taxes, but not to the $1.2 billion proposed in the Alaska Fair Share voter initiative, which will be on the ballot.
“The question I have is what should be Alaska’s fair share,” Hoffman said. “And I would say whatever the people of Alaska give up in dividends, that should be the fair share that industry should come up with. The people of Alaska are coming up with an amount, and industry should come up with a like amount. But at the point if the referendum goes through and gets adopted, the legislature is going to have no say on what that amount is. It’s going to be 1.2 billion.”
The governor has proposed legislation requiring voters to approve any new taxes, but Hoffman says that plan is dead in the water.
“The people of Alaska voted us in. We should represent our people and make those decisions. I know he has legislation to do that; I don’t think that legislation will get much traction,” said Hoffman.
Whatever happens in the session, one thing is certain: rural Alaska has a powerful advocate in the top ranks of the state Senate organization. KYUK will air the entire conversation with Sen. Hoffman the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 29, on Coffee@KYUK.