Dividend paybacks meet opposition in public testimony

Juneau resident David Noon testifies Thursday against Senate Bills 23 and 24. The measures would pay back the amounts cut from PFDs the past three years. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO and Alaska Public Media)

Public testimony on Thursday night ran nearly two-to-one against legislation to pay extra checks to Alaskans to make up for the amounts deducted from permanent fund dividends the last three years. More than 100 Alaskans spoke at the hearing.

Juneau resident David Noon said he’s concerned about the effect of PFD paybacks.

“For a lot of Alaskans, the PFD is a substantial source of income, and reduced PFDs would hit them the hardest,” Noon said. “But I also know that reductions in our schools and hospitals, senior care facilities, ferries — everything else — is going to in the long-term hit everyone, including Alaska’s most vulnerable, harder.”

Gov. Mike Dunleavy proposed Senate Bills 23 and 24, which would pay out nearly $3,678 over the next three years to Alaskans who have lost PFD money since 2016. Former Gov. Bill Walker vetoed half of PFD money that year, and the Legislature passed PFD cuts the next two years.

The bills would permanently reduce the fund’s earnings by an estimated $100 million a year. And it’s the loss of that money that raised concern among most of the Alaskans who testified Thursday.

But others say PFDs should never have been cut. Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce said Dunleavy was elected in part due to his campaign support for paying back the reduced PFDs.

“I want to just remind the elected officials that are there tonight that there was recently an election in Alaska, and I think this issue was really at the forefront of that election,” Pierce said.

The Senate State Affairs Committee will take more public testimony on the bills next Tuesday and Thursday.