Stevens asks for independent review of Anchorage LIO options

Legislative Council chair Sen. Gary Stevens directed the Legislative Affairs Agency last week to hire a third-party for an independent analysis of dueling financial conclusions as to whether the Legislature should stay in the Anchorage Legislative Information Office building.

The meeting was anticipated to bring some sort of resolution to the at times ugly dispute over the $3.3 million annual lease the Legislature has for the year-old space.

The Legislature’s lease of the building has drawn intense scrutiny from many legislators and the public as the state faces an annual budget deficit approaching $4 billion.

Stevens said he has already discussed bringing hiring a third-party consultant with the council’s outside attorneys who have been in contact with potential independent finance experts.

He acknowledged the need to have the financial review complete in time for the Legislature to fund, or not, its current Anchorage LIO lease in the state operating budget, which is usually finalized in late April.

On Dec. 19, the council recommended to the full Legislature via a unanimous vote not to fund the lease in fiscal year 2017 if a solution to stay in the LIO that is cost-competitive with moving the legislative offices to the nearby state-owned Atwood Building could not be reached.

“This has all been political to this point,” Stevens said. “There’s been political advice and we need financial.”

During the brief Thursday meeting the council voted to remove the lease funds from its 2017 budget to bring its actions in compliance with the December motion.

The full Legislature could add the lease payment appropriation back into the state operating budget if the current Anchorage LIO is retained.

A spokeswoman for the LIO’s owner group said in a statement that the group will gladly provide all necessary information for a third-party financial review and also will continue to work with the Legislature to find the best way forward for the State of Alaska.

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