JUNEAU — The Alaska Supreme Court has ruled that Gov. Bill Walker acted within his authority in reducing the amount set aside for checks to state residents from Alaska’s oil-wealth fund last year.
The decision released Friday sided with the state, as a lower court had, in the dispute over Alaska Permanent Fund dividends.
The case was brought by Democratic state Sen. Bill Wielechowski and two former legislators, who argued that the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. last year was required by law to make available nearly $1.4 billion from the fund’s earnings reserve for dividends, despite Walker’s veto.
Walker, a one-time Republican no longer affiliated with a political party, had cut the amount available for dividend checks after lawmakers failed to agree on a plan to address a multibillion-dollar state budget deficit.
The state Supreme Court, in its ruling, concluded that the state constitutional amendment establishing the permanent fund does not allow the dedication of permanent fund income.
“Absent another constitutional amendment, the Permanent Fund dividend program must compete for annual legislative funding just as other state programs,” the ruling states.
The ruling said the legislature’s use of permanent fund income is subject to normal appropriation and veto processes. Walker validly exercised his veto authority when reducing the amount available for dividends, it ruled.