The Alaska Senate late Monday passed legislation converting the Permanent Fund into an endowment and setting dividends at $1,000, a move designed to help reduce the state's $4 billion budget gap.
The 14-5 vote, which supporters described as a necessary step to head off a financial collapse, came quickly after months of discussion and debate about Senate Bill 128. The vote came about 8:30 p.m. on the same day the bill emerged from the Senate Finance Committee.
The legislation still must pass a more skeptical House before it could head to Gov. Bill Walker for his signature. And a House vote is unlikely to come before next week, with lawmakers taking a five-day break from Juneau starting Wednesday, with most of the city's hotel rooms booked for a festival of Alaska Native culture.
I think the word to describe me right now is flabbergasted.
I don't think there is any way that I can adequately explain to those in the Lower 48, how jealousy Alaskans guard the PFD.
We refer to it as the third rail of Alaska politics, and those who suggested capping it or taking money from it to fund the government did so while packing their bags fully aware that their polticla career had just come to an end.
So for this legislation to have made it this far is a testament to the courage of Governor Bill Walker and our state senators.
Personally I hope that the House demonstrates the same courage, because this needs to happen. And in fact it really needed to happen over twenty years ago.