Walker announces fifth special session after Legislature fails to restructure Permanent Fund

Gov. Bill Walker on Sunday called the Legislature back for another special session, after lawmakers failed to restructure Permanent Fund earnings.

Gov. Bill Walker talks with reporters in his temporary offices in Juneau. He had just called the legislature back for a fifth special session. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh, KTOO - Juneau)
Gov. Bill Walker talks with reporters in his temporary offices in Juneau. He had just called the legislature back for a fifth special session. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh, KTOO – Juneau)

Walker issued the call for a session to begin on July 11.

Walker said Permanent Fund dividends are at risk in 2020 if the state doesn’t make changes this year. The Senate passed a bill that would reduce dividends from slightly more than $2,000 this year to $1,000, but the House didn’t pass the bill.

“That program is at risk,” Walker said. “If we don’t make a change in under four years it will go to zero. So those who are concerned about receiving a lesser dividend this year – and I applaud the Senate for what they did on that – that is a step to make sure we will have a dividend going out generations.”

Walker issued the proclamation for a special session shortly after the Senate adjourned Sunday. The proclamation focuses on three things. One is Permanent Fund earnings. The second is a series of new or increased taxes – including a potential sales tax. And the third is oil and gas taxes and tax credits.

Walker also suggested he will veto parts of the budget. He said the size of government may be a bit different after he finishes wielding the veto pen. He declined to say if he will veto PFD funding.

“Things that I anticipated would be done legislatively have not been, and therefore I have the opportunity — I have the obligation — to do some things as governor with the budget,” Walker said.

House Speaker Nikiski Republican Mike Chenault said after the House adjourned Saturday that the Legislature may address a long-term fiscal plan this year. He spoke before Walker called for the special session.

“I hope that we can address some of those concerns, maybe if the governor calls us back, maybe by then we’ll have the ability to move forward,” Chenault said. “Maybe some people’s positions will either soften, or we’ll be able to find a mechanism to move forward.”

Walker has until July 1 to decide whether to veto parts of the budget.