Paying Dividends, Episode 3: Juggling Act

There’s a saying in Juneau, and probably in a lot of other state Capitols : the governor proposes and the Legislature disposes.

In the first two episodes of Paying Dividends, we’ve talked a lot about what Governor Mike Dunleavy is proposing — an austerity budget with sharp cuts to schools, health-care and ferries so the state can afford $3,000 Permanent Fund dividend checks.

In the Capitol, people like to refer to the governor’s proposal as his request — because really, it’s the House and Senate that decide how much to spend on each program, and they’re free to accept or ignore the governor’s advice.

In the House right now, the committees that are handling the budgets for each state agency aren’t even using Dunleavy’s proposal as a starting place — they’re starting by asking how much each agency would need to sustain the status quo.

But if lawmakers reject Dunleavy’s budget cuts and decide to spend more money on government services, how much cash will be left over for PFDs?

In this episode, we go back to the Capitol, to talk to lawmakers about what next year’s budget and PFD are actually going to look like.

While Governor Dunleavy was elected on pledges to pay big dividends while cutting state government, his detailed proposal to do that is not exactly going over smoothly with lawmakers — even those in his own party, like the Republicans who control the Senate.

Nat Herz talks to two of those senators and with Andrew Kitchenman, who’s been covering budget hearings in the Senate Finance Committee.

Alaska has a lot going on right now.

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