Friday, August 08, 2008

Alaska State Legislature Passes Final Energy Assistance Bill, $1,200 Resource Rebate To Be Added To Each Individual Permanent Fund Dividend

Post updated August 8th to include clarification on the House's final vote on August 7th. Updated information posted in green.

Just hours before the expiration of the Alaska State Legislature's special session on August 7th, 2008, the State House completed the final act of the sequence by passing the final energy assistance bill. Full stories published by the Anchorage Daily News, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, and aired on KTUU Channel 2.

The highlights:

- A $1,200 resource rebate to be added to the individual permanent fund dividend for each PFD-eligible Alaskan. With the value of this year's PFD expected to be worth at least $2,000, this would increase the total to at least $3,200. ADN's Alaska Politics blog confirms that only those people who already applied and who qualify for the 2008 PFD will get the rebate. The only exception is a small pool of about 400 disabled veterans who haven't applied for the 2008 dividend.

- A suspension of the state's eight cents per gallon fuel tax.

- Power cost equalization. This means the state will subsidize excessive fuel charges, which is designed to provide extra assistance to hard-hit Interior and Bush Alaska.

The basic bill can be viewed HERE; the amendment HERE. ADN and the News-Miner presents some slightly conflicting and confusing information regarding the process. I will use the official legislative journal to resolve the confusion.

(1). After adding amendment number 7, which inserted power cost equalization back into the bill, the House passed it by a 33-5 margin, with two abstentions. Here's the roll call for the House vote:

Yeas: Buch, Chenault, Coghill, Dahlstrom, Doll, Edgmon, Fairclough, Foster, Gara, Gardner, Gatto, Gruenberg, Guttenberg, Harris, Hawker, Johansen, Johnson, Joule, Kawasaki, Keller, Kerttula, Lynn, Meyer, Nelson, Neuman, Olson, Ramras, Roses, Salmon, Seaton, Stoltze, Thomas, Wilson

Nays: Cissna, Crawford, Doogan, Holmes, Kelly

Excused: LeDoux, Samuels

(2). Then the bill was passed back to the Senate, which passed it by an 11-5 margin, with four abstentions. Here's the roll call for the Senate vote:

Yeas: Davis, Ellis, Elton, Hoffman, Huggins, Kookesh, Olson, Stevens, Thomas, Wagoner, Wielechowski

Nays: Dyson, French, Green, McGuire, Stedman

Excused: Bunde, Therriault, Wilken

Absent: Cowdery

(3). The Anchorage Daily News reports that the final action actually came about three hours before the deadline in the House, where members voted 35-3 to accept some last-minute changes the Senate had made. This refers to the companion bill, SCS CSHB 4001, which shows a categorical financial breakdown on how much will be spent for each area. Here's the roll call for this bill:

Yeas: Buch, Chenault, Cissna, Coghill, Crawford, Dahlstrom, Doll, Edgmon, Fairclough, Foster, Gara, Gardner, Gatto, Gruenberg, Harris, Hawker, Johansen, Johnson, Joule, Kawasaki, Keller, Kelly, Kerttula, Lynn, Meyer, Nelson, Neuman, Olson, Ramras, Roses, Salmon, Seaton, Stoltze, Thomas, Wilson

Nays: Doogan, Guttenberg, Holmes

Excused: LeDoux, Samuels

In addition, the Department of Revenue is gearing up to ship the PFDs out earlier this year. The current schedule has the first payments going out as direct deposits beginning October 2nd with paper checks going out over the ensuing weeks. But state officials are aiming to start dividends rolling as early as September as a way to get money into people's hands faster to buy heating fuel or take care of other needs. Because Governor Sarah Palin promoted the $1,200 rebate in the first place, she is expected to sign the bill into law straightaway.

How will the $1,200 rebate help Alaskans? Here are some typical examples. In the Southeast town of Haines, with its 130-vessel fishing fleet, fishermen might take a few more trips out to sea. Fleets worldwide have been beset by fuel costs. Many captains have tied up their boats because it was no longer worth fishing.

In the Yukon region’s Chalkyitsik, $1,200 can buy up to six cords of wood, enough to heat homes into spring, said Rep. Woodie Salmon (D-Beaver). Salmon said the extra money could go to even the smaller items such as gassing up a chain saw to cut down wood.

In Wasilla, about 50 miles north of downtown Anchorage, the $1,200 could be just what residents need to ease the costs of commuting 500 miles a week. Rep. Wes Keller (R-Wasilla), said residents there were paying about $4.60 a gallon for gas, about 75 cents above the national average.

Additional public reaction is posted in the form of public comments to both the ADN and the News-Miner stories. Most reaction is positive, although a few people criticize it as "welfare". However, critics don't sufficiently grasp the impact of the problem. The increases in energy costs were not gradual and predictable; they were sudden and unexpected. And government bears some responsibility for the problem, since Congress has stubbornly refused to open up ANWR for exploration and responsible development and has been reluctant to make it easier to build new refineries and nuclear power plants. So if government regulation and inaction contribute to the problem, government bears some responsibility to contribute to the solution.

We as Alaskans can help to further solve this problem and strengthen our economy by voting No on Ballot Measure 4 on August 26th. Ballot Measure 4 poses a potentially serious threat to Alaska's mining industry because of its restrictions and its ambiguity.


  1. Regarding Gov Sarah Palin, Joe over at says:

    Now that Palin has successfully maneuvered two tremendously difficult bills through the Alaskan legislature, each having to do with energy, she truly has stature on the entire energy issue, and has stature as a governor who can get things done in a political world where stalemate usually rules the day.

    I now agree that McCain should make his move.

    Imagine the ads...

    1. "She is a young woman who ran against the Republican establishment, and has effectively moved Alaksa in the direction of reform, against all odds.

    Don't just hope for change, VOTE FOR IT. McCain/Palin 2008."

    2. "She is a governor who in 2 years of office passed a law that had been lanquishing for years; a law that will allow for the flow of natural gas resources from the great state of Alaska to the midwest, into energy hungry areas. Against all odds.

    Don't just hope for change, VOTE FOR IT. McCain/Palin, 2008."

    3. "She is a governor who insisted her state legistlature stay in session until a true energy plan could be put into place offering real and immediate relief to Alaska's citizens during this difficult energy crunch.

    Don't just hope for change, VOTE FOR IT. McCain/Palin, 2008."

    4. "She is a mother of 5. She is an avid hunter, fisher, one who loves and believes in the importance of the environment for us and for future generations. She also understands that energy resources can and should be tapped in ways that do not threaten our land. She believes it and is doing it.

    Don't just hope for change, VOTE FOR IT. McCain/Palin, 2008."

    5. John McCain. The Original Maverick. Sarah Palin. The New Maverick. Together they fought 'A Bridge to Nowhere' and knocked the establishment on its heals. Together, they will reform America.

    Don't just hope for change, VOTE FOR IT. McCain/Palin, 2008."

    Congratulations, Governor Palin. Senator McCain, please make your move.

  2. Ted - you might want to read Andrew Halcro's latest blog entry. The Princess now has an ethics complaint filed against her, although the complainant, Andree McLeod, has limited credibility because she's been begging for a job in the Palin Administration.

    Still too much of a liability for John McCain. Face it, McCain's gonna pick Romney.

  3. Everyone that thinks "ted" is a fruitcake, raise your hand!