Alaska Legislature

Anchorage Republican breaks with House majority over Permanent Fund dividend

LeDoux talk

JUNEAU — Citing her preference for a $3,000 Permanent Fund dividend, Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, voted to reject a state operating budget approved by the House of Representatives in favor of a competing plan drafted by the Alaska Senate.

The act breaks the rules of the coalition House majority, which requires its members to vote together on the budget and on procedural votes, and LeDoux will be ejected from the majority.

“I know that there are going to be consequences for this vote, but I am willing to live with this decision,” LeDoux said to House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham.

Neither Edgmon nor House Rules Chairman Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, were immediately available for comment, but House majority spokesman Austin Baird confirmed that LeDoux will be removed from the majority.

Without LeDoux, the majority will include 24 of the House’s 40 members.

LeDoux’s vote brought unusual drama to what is ordinarily a mere procedural vote. The House approved its proposed operating budget in early April without a specific PFD amount. The proposal went to the Senate, where it was amended.

One of those amendments is the inclusion of a $3,000 Permanent Fund dividend paid according to a formula that has existed mostly unchanged in state law since 1982. Many lawmakers have begun questioning whether the state can still afford to pay dividends using that older formula, and the Senate budget — which includes a $1.2 billion deficit — does not say how that dividend will be paid.

“This budget has no means of financing the Permanent Fund (dividend). It’s got a big hole in it,” said Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak.

On Friday, House lawmakers voted to reject the Senate’s changes. That sets the stage for the formation of a conference committee of six lawmakers, three from the House and three from the Senate, who will draft a compromise between the House and Senate budgets.

LeDoux was the lone dissenting vote.

“I think a lot of people weren’t really pleased,” she said after the floor session.

House floor session 5-3-19

She said she began thinking about the vote after the Senate included a “full” dividend in its budget proposal. She told fellow members of her caucus before voting on the floor, she said.

Speaking on the floor, she said her constituents demand a statutory dividend, and the House budget does not contain that.

“This will probably be the only opportunity to vote for a full PFD,” she said.

Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole and co-chair of the House Finance Committee, said that is not correct. While the House budget does not contain a dividend amount, she said it is still the House’s intention to deal with it in separate legislation.

Other supporters of a statutory dividend said they also feel it will be dealt with as the conference committee process moves forward.

House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, urged his members to reject the Senate budget and send the budget process to conference committee.

“We should have that conversation; we should talk about it,” he said.

Asked whether she will now join the minority, LeDoux said she isn’t sure.

“I haven’t thought that far,” she said.

James Brooks

James Brooks was a Juneau-based reporter for the ADN from 2018 to May 2022.