The Alaska House Finance Committee is meeting today and tomorrow, Tuesday and Wednesday, to take public comments on bill that sets the rate of this year’s Permanent Fund Dividend.
The meeting will be live-remoted at the Kodiak Legislative Information Office beginning today at 2:00. Residents can listen in or testify and let legislators know how they feel about the measure, and what they think the amount of the PFD should be.
The LIO is located across from the Subway Building.
The committee started its meetings yesterday and took more than five hours of public testimony. House Bill 2001, was refined earlier in the day as a vehicle to restore budget items struck by the governor’s vetoes. Doing so would reduce this year’s Permanent Fund Dividend to a little more than 900 dollars.
At the Anchorage LIO yesterday the chamber was standing room-only, with an overflow space set up in a nearby office. Residents testifying in person and over the phone from towns across Alaska were split. A clear majority of those who spoke support the new House Bill as a way to stave off cuts they say will irreparably damage crucial state services.
Anchorage resident Molly Hayes says she and her family do not want the higher PFD check promised by the governor.
“At this point it feels like dirty money. There is no monetary amount that could be worth taking other people’s jobs, warm beds from our vulnerable neighbors, shelters for abused women and children in our communities, or jeopardizing the future education of our young people.”
But a significant minority felt just the opposite. Many decried the new House bill for extending what they call the theft of their rightful dividends from the last several years. Others chastised lawmakers for
meeting outside of Wasilla, where the governor called a special session. Several spoke not only of wanting a smaller state government, but point to shortcomings in state services like education as proof the current system is far from ideal. Paige Hall of Wasilla says she has a homeless family member who has been completely failed by social services and the public safety net, and that the PFD is one of the few ways to get a roof over his head.
“The only hope comes from family. This year’s dividends would cover a cabin for him before winter. They say people will die from these cuts. They die when you take money that could build them permanent shelter.”
Hall says she’d prefer lawmakers raise taxes to cover the budget gap before diminishing people’s dividends.
The House Finance Committee meets again this afternoon and Wednesday at the Kodiak LIO beginning at 2 p.m.