ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Nearly every Alaska resident will be $1,606 richer next week when they get their share of the state’s oil wealth.
The Alaska Department of Revenue announced the amount of this year’s cheque in a release Friday. It said nearly 631,000 Alaskans will receive the cheque, starting with disbursements Thursday. The total amount of the payout is just over $1 billion.
The announcement used to come with great fanfare, with the governor and revenue commissioner announcing the amount of the cheque — written on a giant fake cheque — during a news conference broadcast live across the state.
That was before lawmakers began limiting the amount of the cheques during a downturn in the state economy.
This year, the announcement came after a drawn-out debate over the amount of the cheques that pitted Gov. Mike Dunleavey against some lawmakers.
Dunleavy planned a news conference later Friday where he was expected to discuss the oil cheque, his pick for an open state Senate seat, and a future special session of the Legislature.
Dunleavy campaigned last year on a dividend in line with a longstanding calculation that has not been followed since 2016. The Department of Revenue said if the formula had been followed this year, the cheque amount would have been $2,910.
Debate over the issue contributed to an extended regular and special sessions this year, Some lawmakers said the state could afford such a payout and others countered it is unsustainable and at odds with a law that seeks to limit what can be taken from the earnings of the Alaska Permanent Fund for government expenses and dividends.
Lawmakers ultimately settled on a dividend amount of about $1,600 by cobbling together a mix of dollars that included permanent fund earnings and savings.
While many lawmakers expressed concerns with the dividend formula that’s been ignored, they were unable to advance an alternative, setting the stage for ongoing debate over the size of the cheque annually paid to residents.
The state Supreme Court in 2017 ruled that absent a constitutional amendment, the dividend program must compete for funding like other state programs do.
In August, the governor said he anticipated a fall special session in which he would seek additional funds for a dividend in line with the statutory calculation. But just because a special session is called doesn’t mean lawmakers are obligated to act on the agenda items.