House passes bill to address vetoed funds

    The Alaska State Capitol in downtown Juneau.

    Juneau, Alaska (AP) - The Alaska House has passed legislation to restore significant spending vetoed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, without minority support and with no indication whether Dunleavy will accept the spending or cut it again.

    The legislation passed Wednesday without minority support and with no immediate indication whether Dunleavy would accept the spending or cut it again.

    The bill, among other things, would restore $110 million of the $130 million Dunleavy vetoed from the University of Alaska. It would add $5 million to bolster service for the state ferry system, which the Legislature previously agreed to cut by more than $40 million.

    The measure next goes to the Senate. Dunleavy, a Republican, was expected to speak to reporters later Thursday.

    House Speaker Bryce Edgmon said he didn't know what Dunleavy would do.

    "There seems to be, again, a general acknowledgment in the Legislature that some, if not the larger portion of the vetoes, need to be restored," said Edgmon, a Dillingham independent.

    The Legislature earlier this month failed to win sufficient support to override Dunleavy's vetoes, a vote that came with lawmakers in different locations amid a dispute over the proper meeting site for the current special session, the second of the year.

    Since then, the university system Board of Regents voted to allow administrators to expedite layoffs of tenured faculty, end programs and take other measures to cut expenses.

    The bill, as it reached the House floor, proposed an Alaska Permanent Fund dividend to residents of around $1,600, assuming use of funds from the statutory budget reserve to round out that amount.

    But that issue was split off, and a separate bill proposing to pay that amount reached the floor Thursday. A final vote has not been taken.

    The dividend, traditionally paid with earnings from the state's oil-wealth fund, the Alaska Permanent Fund, has overshadowed lawmakers' work all year and been a sticking point as they struggle to resolve remaining budget issues.

    Dunleavy and minority House Republicans have pushed for a dividend of about $3,000, paid according to a calculation that hasn't been followed the past three years and that critics say is unsustainable.

    Rep. DeLena Johnson, a minority Republican, said her caucus wants the dividend law followed. If some want to change the calculation, "then let's have that conversation," she said.

    Lawmakers are worn out, she said: "We're not plowing any new ground here, I wish we were."

    Edgmon said the Dunleavy administration has insisted on a $3,000 dividend.

    An idea that's been floated is perhaps approving a $1,600 dividend now and in the fall holding a special session where a $1,400 check would be contingent on passage of a change in the dividend law, Edgmon said.

    "The governor seems, at this point, unwilling to accommodate that request," he said, adding that lawmakers have told Dunleavy the votes aren't there to pay a full dividend outright and come back later to try to change the law.

    Lawmakers last year began using permanent fund earnings to help pay for government expenses amid an ongoing deficit and sought to limit what can be withdrawn for dividends and government.

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