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Senate OKs using excess PCE funds for other programs

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The fund used to lower rural electric rates could also be used for community revenue sharing and rural energy projects.

The Alaska Senate today passed a bill that would use extra money from the Power Cost Equalization fund for other programs.

PCE helps offset the high cost of energy in rural Alaska. Under the bill, when the PCE endowment fund is earning more money than is needed to subsidize rural electric rates, lawmakers want some of the remaining money to go to community revenue sharing and rural energy projects.

Sen. Lyman Hoffman sponsored the original bill, and spoke up in favor of the most recent version on Wednesday.

“This program has been in existence for well over 30 years and the people of rural Alaska have come to depend on this program, and I think this particular piece of legislation can help go a long way to stabilize the endowment and not require the dependency of this program on general fund but on the endowment," he said.

Hoffman’s original bill would have used the extra money from the PCE fund for the state budget. Earlier this week, the Senate Finance Committee came up with the amended version that would direct 50 percent of the endowment’s surplus for community revenue sharing and 20 percent for rural energy programs like the renewable energy fund and the bulk fuel revolving loan fund. The rest would stay in the endowment to help balance it out in leaner years.

The bill, which passed 19-0, is scheduled for a hearing in the House Finance committee at 8:30 a.m. Thursday morning.