Energy Special Session Wraps Up
Late last Thursday night package in the closing hours of the special session the Legislature passed an energy package. The Juneau delegation came to the special session with some clear goals—to provide meaningful short-term energy relief for the most vulnerable Alaskans, and to begin working toward long-term energy solutions for all Alaskans.
We made progress in both areas, but the final package could have gone much further for far less money. Many of us were uncomfortable with the idea of simply writing checks to all Alaskans, whether they needed the help or not, but in the end, the increase in Power Cost Equalization and in the bulk fuel and bridge loan programs will help our rural neighbors, and the additional funds in the Renewable Energy Fund will start the momentum to get Alaskans off of expensive fossil fuels.
The most important thing was ensuring all Alaskans will be warm and safe this winter, and we believe this energy package goes a long way toward that end. Now it’s time to pursue a long range vision for Alaska. A serious commitment to renewable energy research and development is a critical part of that plan. We also believe there should be dedicated energy committees in the Legislature, and we’ll urge the governor to elevate an energy commissioner to a cabinet-level position. Solving Alaska’s energy challenges is a top priority for Democrats in the Legislature.
Democrats Seek Solution to Energy Rebate Problem
(Press Release 08/12/08) Several Democratic legislators have asked Attorney General Talis Colberg to remedy a situation that would deny many qualifying Alaskans from receiving this year’s energy rebate. Because the rebates are tied to the Permanent Fund Dividend program, many Alaskans who qualified for 2008 PFDs, but did not apply will also be cut out of the energy rebate program.
Reps Berta Gardner and Bob Buch (D-Anchorage), Andrea Doll (D-Juneau) and Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks) sent a letter to Colberg urging him to create an application form for Alaskans who qualify but are not included in the rebate.
Gardner introduced an amendment to remedy the problem during the recent special, but it was defeated on a party-line vote (see the amendment and vote here http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_jrn_page.asp?session=25&bill=SB4002&jrn=3334&hse=H ).
“I understand the administrative cost savings of tying the energy rebate to the PFD, but this unintended consequence is going to hurt many Alaskan families,” Gardner said. “We can easily fix it, and we should.”
The letter simply asks the AG to prepare an application form allowing Alaskans who otherwise qualify for the PFD, and who missed the PFD application deadline this past year, to at least have a chance to apply for the $1,200 rebate.
“This is easy, and it makes sense,” Buch said. “There are a number of reasons people may not have applied for a PFD, and denying them this benefit on a technicality is simply unfair – it’s un-Alaskan.”
“It’s my intention that every Alaskan who qualifies for an energy rebate receives one,” Kawasaki said. “This winter is going to be cold for every Alaskan family, whether they applied for their PFDs or not, and this rebate is supposed to make it a little more bearable for all Alaskans.”
“These rebates are intended to help Alaskan families,” Doll said. “We can’t allow a bureaucratic glitch to make the process unfair. It just doesn’t make sense to disqualify people from one program simply because they chose not to participate in another.”