Politics & Government

Alaska Legislature's plan for new offices called 'monument to legislative vanity'

Alaska lawmakers are moving forward with obtaining cost estimates for a new legislative office building in Anchorage, although a representative with say over state spending is fighting the idea and argues it would be a "monument to legislative vanity."

The Legislative Council, a 14-member panel of representatives and senators who handle business when the Legislature isn't in session, has asked staffers to collect cost figures for two downtown sites under consideration for a new building.

"It seemed to me like the majority of members, by far, didn't want to stay in the building we're in. That could change due to cost and due to the public's involvement," Legislative Council Chairman John Harris said Tuesday. "It will be an election year next year and maybe a number of them don't want to be seen as being big spenders and wanting to go out and put a lot of money into a new building."

Legislators have talked for years about moving out of the current office space they lease in Anchorage on West Fourth Avenue. Senate President Gary Stevens said last month, "I think we need to have a larger building with more offices and adequate parking." Harris said he's heard concerns about maintenance issues in the current building and that the offices are too small and few in number.

But not everyone wants to move. Anchorage Republican Rep. Mike Hawker is arguing that legislators should stay in the building and make "appropriate tenant improvements."

"It would be totally unnecessary and irresponsible to build any monument to legislative vanity ... The public does not want legislators living in luxury at state expense and we certainly have not earned the right to claim that privilege," Hawker wrote in an e-mail to other legislators.

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