Alaska News

Alaska House votes to more than double Permanent Fund dividends

Editor's note: This story has been updated. You can find the current version here.

JUNEAU – The Alaska House voted Monday afternoon to pay out Permanent Fund dividends of some $2,700 next year — more than doubling the amount the chamber originally proposed to set aside — in a move that critics quickly denounced as unsustainable.

House members approved the plan by passing an amendment to their state operating budget proposal.

The 21-19 vote splintered the two caucuses into which the chamber has organized. Eleven of the Republican minority's 18 members voted yes, along with 10 of the 22 members of the largely Democratic majority.

The vote would pay dividends in line with a decades-old legal formula. But it also adds $900 million to the amount of cash that the House would withdraw from the Permanent Fund this year to balance its budget.

House majority members had already proposed to spend what they described as the maximum sustainable draw from the fund next year — some $2.5 billion, or 4.75 percent of the fund's value. Monday's vote is "overdrawing the sustainable payout by $892 million," said David Teal, the Legislature's chief budget analyst.

The current value of the fund is $64 billion.

The House's move won't take effect unless it's also approved by the Senate and signed into law by Gov. Bill Walker. And before that, House members must vote to approve the full annual spending plan that the dividends payments are part of.

Debate on the full budget proposal is expected later Monday.

This is a breaking news story. Check back for updates.