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Influential legislator criticizes Anchorage office plan

Legislative committee studying possibility of new Southcentral digs

Posted: Thursday, November 12, 2009

An Anchorage legislator is calling a proposal for new offices for legislators in the state's largest city a "monument to legislative vanity" and urging instead they renovate and make do with their current space.

The Legislative Council, the joint Senate and House of Representatives committee that manages the day-to-day business of the Legislature including space requirements, is considering new options for legislative offices in the Anchorage area.

The council in October asked legislative staff to do more research into the costs of moving versus staying put.

Some legislators are unhappy with the size and quality of their leased space in downtown Anchorage, and the council is considering purchasing or building new quarters, as well as renovating the existing space.

Rep. Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, told other lawmakers in an e-mail that he was opposed to building any new facility for the Legislature.

"It would be totally unnecessary and irresponsible to build any monument to legislative vanity," Hawker said.

Hawker is co-chairman of the powerful House Finance Committee.

The Legislative Council is chaired by Rep. John Harris, R-Valdez, a former House speaker.

Harris said he has no opinion on the matter and is considering a run for governor rather than running for re-election. While the Legislative Council could make such a decision by itself, Harris has been soliciting comments on the proposal from other legislators, particularly those from Anchorage who would use the offices.

Hawker's e-mail said continuing to lease space in downtown Anchorage from a private company would be in the best interests of constituents, the downtown Anchorage business district and the Legislature.

"I strongly support extending our commitment to the current facility and making appropriate tenant improvements to improve the function and efficiency of the building," Hawker said.

Wednesday, Rep. Jay Ramras, R-Fairbanks, who is currently running for lieutenant governor, said he'd be opposed to new Anchorage offices as well.

Previous discussions of building legislative offices in Anchorage have raised capital move concerns in Juneau, but Harris said the new offices would not in any way be considered a new capitol building.

Cost estimates for a move or renovation have yet to be developed, but two years ago a plan for a new combined courts and legislative building was abandoned when cost estimates rose to $86 million.

Hawker said he remained opposed to any new building and said it would not be supported by the Alaska residents.

"The public does not want legislators living in luxury at state expense and we certainly have not earned the right to claim that privilege," he said.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgeyat 523-2250 or e-mail patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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