The Alaska Legislature’s fourth special session for 2021 ended this week after essentially no activity.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy called the 30-day session on Oct. 1, hoping beyond hope that lawmakers would write a state fiscal plan of action.
Alaska has a state deficit and declining revenue potential, despite the increasing price of oil lately. Even then, oil no longer is the state’s main source of revenue, in part because of lower production. Mainly, it’s because the wildly successful Alaska Permanent Fund valued at more than $80 billion plus now generates most of Alaska’s income.
Throughout the year, Dunleavy has lobbied for permanent fund dividends larger than eligible Alaskans received this fall. The $1,114 payouts were distributed in October. The governor had suggested $2,360.
He continues to lobby for an addition to October’s payout, especially in response the oil price change.
Dunleavy also is determined that the Legislature allow voters to weigh in on enshrining the dividend in the Alaska Constitution, and he is partial to the idea of the dividend being calculated based on 50% of the permanent fund’s earnings reserve account.
None of this gained much attention in the Legislature’s special session because of the state’s deficit and future financial uncertainty.
Meanwhile, legislative costs reached more than $1.4 million for the first three special sessions. The Legislative Affairs Agency has yet to release the cost for the fourth.
And, say it isn’t so, but the governor still has enough days in the year to call the Legislature into a fifth special session before Dec. 31. It would have to start no later than Dec. 1.
However, that’s the Christmas season, and, perhaps Dunleavy will give the legislators a break. He did tell Alaska Public Media that he doesn’t plan to call another legislative session this year. Hopefully, that’s the case, especially because January, with the start of the next regular session, is only weeks away. Then, the legislative process can start all over again.