What others say: Lawmakers want one more big meal before tightening belts

  • Sunday, April 19, 2015 9:31pm
  • Opinion

A group of lawmakers are looking to gorge themselves one more time before notching new holes and tightening their belts. Instead, we recommend a no-spending diet. If that’s what is good for the rest of the state, surely it must apply to them as well.

We’re talking about the Legislative Council’s 15-1 vote to buy the Legislative Information Office building in Anchorage for $70 million.

We won’t revert to capital creep as the reason this deal shouldn’t be made — there are 3.9 billion other reasons why this move ranges between fiscally irresponsible and blatantly hypocritical.

Juneau Rep. Sam Kito did us proud as the only voice of reason on the 16-member council.

According to a March 2014 report from Rep. Mike Hawker’s office, the state could have purchased the building a year ago for $28 million. That was before renovations were complete. The state paid $7.5 million toward those renovations, which cost $44 million overall. The newer, shinier office space came with a newer, shinier price tag. The state’s lease rose from $684,000 annually to $3.4 million.

As Juneau Empire columnist Rich Moniak noted in a recent My Turn, the 60,000 square-foot Anchorage LIO is being leased at $7 per square foot — double what the state pays for its next-highest lease agreement. Yet the Anchorage LIO lease is being touted as a good deal because the lease is lower than its market value. But isn’t that like boasting about getting a good deal on a Porsche when you can’t afford to pay for its gas or insurance?

The state is expecting to pay $45.5 million total during the 10-year lease, which was signed last year. Fearing a lawsuit if it backs out of the lease, the Legislative Council now wants to spend $35 million more to clean up its mess. Sure, the State of Alaska will own a shiny new office building in Anchorage. We want to know: does the state truly need this?

The cost of renovating the state-owned Atwood Building is affordable, even cheap, in comparison at $2.5 million. And there will likely be plenty of space to accommodate the two dozen Anchorage lawmakers and their staffs once state departments lay off workers and consolidate offices in July.

Alaskans expect to see government shrink this year and next, so if there is no space in the Atwood Building, we expect there soon will be.

Signing such a long-term lease, at five times the previous amount, didn’t make sense in 2014 when the state was facing a $1 billion deficit. Buying the whole farm now when the state is facing a $3.9 billion deficit is ludicrous.

Alaskans should be outraged that while transportation, education and public services are getting axed, a minority of lawmakers are plotting a deal to buy a McMansion with few checks and balances in place to stop it.

It will be a hard pill to swallow when the Legislature takes away Alaskan jobs but refuses to part with its toys. We expect better from our elected leaders and for them to set the example of what living within our means should look like. Otherwise they’ll gorge, and likely choke, on one of the worst deals the state could make at this time.

— Juneau Empire, April 17

More in Opinion

This image available under the Creative Commons license shows the outline of the state of Alaska filled with the pattern of the state flag.
Opinion: Old models of development are not sustainable for Alaska

Sustainability means investing in keeping Alaska as healthy as possible.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy unveils proposals to offer public school teachers annual retention bonuses and enact policies restricting discussion of sex and gender in education during a news conference in Anchorage. (Screenshot)
Opinion: As a father and a grandfather, I believe the governor’s proposed laws are anti-family

Now, the discrimination sword is pointing to our gay and transgender friends and families.

Kenai Peninsula Education Association President Nathan Erfurth works in his office on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Now is the time to invest in Kenai Peninsula students

Parents, educators and community members addressed the potential budget cuts with a clear message.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy holds a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: An accurate portrayal of parental rights isn’t controversial

Affirming and defining parental rights is a matter of respect for the relationship between parent and child

Opinion: When the state values bigotry over the lives of queer kids

It has been a long, difficult week for queer and trans Alaskans like me.

Dr. Sarah Spencer. (Photo by Maureen Todd and courtesy of Dr. Sarah Spencer)
Voices of the Peninsula: Let’s bring opioid addiction treatment to the Alaskans who need it most

This incredibly effective and safe medication has the potential to dramatically increase access to treatment

Unsplash / Louis Velazquez
Opinion: Fish, family and freedom… from Big Oil

“Ultimate investment in the status quo” is not what I voted for.

An orphaned moose calf reared by the author is seen in 1970. (Stephen F. Stringham/courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: Maximizing moose productivity on the Kenai Peninsula

Maximum isn’t necessarily optimum, as cattle ranchers learned long ago.

(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The time has come to stop Eastman’s willful and wanton damage

God in the Bible makes it clear that we are to care for the vulnerable among us.

Caribou graze on the greening tundra of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska in June, 2001. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: AIDEA’s $20 million-and-growing investment looks like a bad bet

Not producing in ANWR could probably generate a lot of money for Alaska.

A fisher holds a reel on the Kenai River near Soldotna on June 30, 2021. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: King salmon closures long overdue

Returns have progressively gone downhill since the early run was closed in June 2012

(Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Fixing legislative salaries and per diem

The state Senate was right to unanimously reject giving a 20% pay… Continue reading