This editorial first appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:
Legislators should use the amount of cash they need of what they are allotted to cover office expenses and return the unused portion to state coffers.
Sen. Berta Gardner, D-Anchorage, has introduced SB34, which would require that all office expenses be accounted for and that unspent funds be returned to the state’s treasury.
Representatives receive $16,000 for their office accounts, according to an Associated Press story published this week. Senators get $20,000.
Lawmakers had been submitting expenses for reimbursement. For any funds left over in the account at the end of the fiscal year, they would receive a check minus taxes and deductions.
Gardner says legislators’ expenses vary, some are more or less than others. She proposes each legislator spend what is necessary and return the unused portion to the state.
If SB34 becomes law, it would take effect next year.
Gardner’s legislation is just what the public seeks, not only in Juneau, but in Washington, D.C. It shows respect for the value of Alaskans’ dollars. It also eliminates the perception, regardless of how accurate or the reasons for it, that politicians are taking advantage of a situation.
It is in their best interest and the interest of Alaska to eliminate the situation that creates that perception.