Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Sitka Senator Bert Stedman, made a presentation Wednesday to the Southeast Conference which is meeting in Juneau this week.
Stedman explained that the Legislature reduced the state's savings position last year to provide a 1,100 Permanent Fund Dividend. That included the federal funds for COVID relief received last June that were converted to general funds.
"Roughly at $660 million, and that includes the federal monies that we converted to general funds, the COVID money. Since about June or so we've walked into this larger oil price. So we have a surplus now instead of being flat on our back, but there's discussions to put back the $660 million, not to pay an extra dividend this year, but put our savings position back in place, because we drained everything pretty much," he said. "We've got to be able to meet our obligations if we're at $65 or $60, barrel oil, not $90. So you'll see those conversations with the finance table. And maybe it's the whole $660 million, maybe it's part of the $660 million so we've got that discussion that's going to take place you, the governor's spent all this extra revenue plus all the revenue for 2023 Except for the increase in oil prices that they're going to be factoring in."
On another subject, Senator Stedman said a bond package is not going to go anywhere.
"We have so much money coming in from the feds, federal money, we're worried about having the workforce to build and we're having discussions on trying to train up our workforce getting our young men and women prepared to deal with it and do we have the throughput capacity a duty to deliver the projects, so it's not like we don't have a full pipeline coming at us for construction projects. We're worried that we're gonna have too many."
And the Senate budget writer made this additional point.
"It's starting to resonate amongst the legislators that if we don't take this opportunity at $90 barrel oil to prepare ourselves for $65 a barrel $60 a barrel, you guys are going to be really really pissed because you're gonna have a lot of taxes coming at you because we just don't have the money. So if we can take some of it and save it, get a reasonable dividend, get the dividend permanently rewritten so people are comfortable and happy with it across the state, and then fix our deferred maintenance issues and a few other capital issues."
Sitka Senator Bert Stedman during an address to the Southeast Conference Wednesday.