Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Tuesday signed a state budget that adds millions of dollars for public safety, K-12 education and the University of Alaska system. In addition, it pays each eligible Alaskan a Permanent Fund dividend of approximately $3,200.
The budget also includes $390 million to pay off the latest oil and gas tax credits the state owes.
Dunleavy, who is running for re-election, highlighted spending levels during a budget press conference on Tuesday afternoon.
“With the exception of investments in public safety and education, all of our agencies are at levels below where we reached in 2019,” he said. “So we’ve controlled spending in a lot of our operating budget.”
The budget is fairly close to what was passed by the Legislative Assembly in May, although Dunleavy vetoed about $780 million in spending before signing it, including about $112 million for deferred maintenance. schools, universities and the state.
The budget will come into effect on July 1 and end on June 30 of next year.
Among the other items Dunleavy kept in the budget was the provisional funding for K-12 education. This means that $1.2 billion is reserved for schools for the next fiscal year. During his first year in office in 2019, Dunleavy had opposed forward funding for education – and was sued by lawmakers. He said the way it’s done this year is different.
“This particular approach to contingent funding has not just the idea of contingent funding, but the actual resources behind it,” he said. “We have the money in hand, we have the surplus in hand to be able to do it. So that’s the difference.
This year’s PFD, at around $3,200, is lower than what the 40-year-old state formula would have set. It is still the highest dividend on record, second after adjusting for inflation. As Dunleavy campaigned for payment of a full statutory PFD, he said he pushed lawmakers to pass a 50-50 plan that would split spending between dividends and government services.
“I said in the Legislature last year, ‘If we want to send the people a 50-50 dividend change in law, we’re also doing it with a constitutional amendment,'” Dunleavy said. “In other words, Alaskans have the opportunity to decide if they want a 50-50 to be able to solve this problem and have a formula moving forward.”
Dunleavy said distribution dates for the PFD will be announced soon.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, said in a statement that Alaska “can move forward with this budget,” though he said he was “unfortunate that all priorities have not been funded”.