On Friday, the Alaska Legislature’s Legislative Council could have saved the state of Alaska $30 million.
Instead, they punted.
The Legislative Council, which conducts the Legislature’s business when that body is not in session, was considering a report about the glass tower in Anchorage that houses the Legislative Information Office in the state’s largest city.
Renting that tower costs the state $4 million per year. It has been dubbed by critics as the “Taj MaHawker” after Republican Anchorage Rep. Mike Hawker, who negotiated the state’s lease for the building, which is owned by Pfeffer Development.
Hawker used private email accounts to conduct negotiations with Pfeffer, which was selected after a no-bid process. Tara Jollie, a retired deputy commissioner of Labor, has determined that Hawker received more than $1,000 in contributions from Pfeffer employees during the period when the lease was under discussion.
All that is beside the point: The lease makes little sense.
Blocks away from the glass tower is the Atwood Building, a state-owned facility with enough (admittedly somewhat cramped) space to accommodate Anchorage’s lawmakers.
It would cost $10 million to renovate the Atwood Building for the Anchorage lawmakers’ needs for the next 10 years, according to a presentation given Friday by Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak. Keeping up the glass tower would cost $40 million over the same period. Buying the building would cost $43 million.
As the state faces a $3.5 billion annual deficit, the choice should be obvious. Unfortunately, on Friday, lawmakers didn’t think so.
After an executive session in which all reporters were kicked out of the room and down the hall — apparently, the building’s walls are too thin and PA system too loud to keep them close to a closed door — the Legislative Council decided to put off the issue until Dec. 19.
That date is after Gov. Bill Walker is required to deliver a draft state budget — a task made harder now that the Legislature has failed to act.
Extending the lease on the Anchorage LIO didn’t make sense a year ago and it makes just as little sense now. The Legislature needs to be looking at how to reduce spending, not buying unnecessary luxuries for itself.