The Alaska Senate adopted a state spending bill on Tuesday that included $5,500 cash handouts to Alaskans.
Residents will receive $4,200 in dividends this year, as well as $1,300 in “energy relief” payments.
As Americans battle with record-high inflation and soaring gas prices, fueled in part by Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, Alaska’s vote comes as a number of other governments consider making more direct payments to their inhabitants.
The bill passed 15-5 and was sent to the House of Representatives, which will determine whether to accept the Senate’s version.
According to the Anchorage News, lawmakers feel the House is more likely to reject it. If that happens, a conference committee of lawmakers from both chambers will have to achieve an agreement.
Last month, the House adopted a version of the budget that included a $1,250 dividend and a $1,300 energy check.
In recent years, lawmakers have been split on the size of the dividend, which is normally given out of revenues from the state’s oil-wealth fund, the Alaska Permanent Fund.
During a budget debate on Monday, the Senate voted 10-9 in favor of a $4,200 dividend.
According to The Associated Press, the cost of such a large dividend would be over $2.8 billion, while the planned energy payment would cost $840 million.
Supporters of the Senate budget stated that Alaskans may benefit from the assistance, while detractors expressed concerns about the program’s potential budgetary ramifications.
Republican Alaska House Speaker Louise Stutes chastised conservative state Senate lawmakers for voting for a budget that will deplete the state’s reserves.
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According to the News, “we have all these conservative people who have been nickel and diming different bills, saying, ‘We’ve got to save money.”
“The House—we expected to put a large sum of money into a savings account. That was recently halted in the Senate. All of our money, our savings account, and money that we haven’t yet received were wasted by all of these conservative folks.”
Stutes predicted that the Senate’s budget would be voted on by the House on Wednesday evening or Thursday early.
The Alaska State Legislature has until May 18 to enact a budget or a special session would be called.
Millions of Americans signed online petitions demanding greater direct payments to help with the financial burden of the COVID-19 outbreak.