More New Legislative Office Building Boondoggle
A Note from Representative Les Gara
Dear Friends and Neighbors:
As many of you know, I think the shiny, expensive, [insert your own adjective here!] new Legislative Office Building is a waste of your money. OK. I'm being as polite as I can. But I think it's a boondoggle. I haven't spoken to anyone in my caucus who disagrees with me, and we tried to scale this project cost back during session.
You may recall that after this sole source deal, negotiated by Rep. Mike Hawker (R-Anch.), our rent and related costs increased five-fold from $685,000 a year to over $4 million a year. I offered a budget amendment this year to try to minimize the damage. The amendment would have required the Legislature to lease out the new extra space negotiated under this contract, to cut these exorbitant state costs.
That amendment was defeated along party lines - something that bothers me. While I am a Democrat, I don't vote along party lines, and have consistently voted both for and against Republican bills based on the merits, not based on who filed the bill.
Yesterday the Legislative Council, the committee that decides Legislative office matters, voted to increase a subcommittee recommendation for new furniture from $100,000 to $500,000. I disagree. The only House Democratic Caucus member on the committee and one Republican on the committee also disagreed.
We are in deficit mode. For 2014 and 2015 the budgets that have been approved have, in effect, created over $1 billion deficits as our oil revenue falls. That's eating quickly into our savings created the last six years.
And it gets worse. The Parnell Administration's own forecast under their new oil law (SB 21 which is up for an August 19 repeal vote) shows production will fall by roughly 45% by 2024 - something not mentioned on those oil company funded pro-SB 21 TV ads. Nor is it mentioned that the State's own production forecasts show that by 2022 - the last year oil was forecasted by the state under ACES (the law SB 21 replaced in 2013) - more oil production was forecast under ACES than is now forecast under SB 21.
Anyway, I'd put schools ahead of this expense. Schools are facing three more years of cuts under a bill I and others tried to fix. This is on top of the last three years of staff cuts my democratic colleagues and I fought to try to stop. Stopping school cuts shouldn’t be a party line issue either!
Every day I walk or bike by this new building I get angry. I guess I can think of many things this money could be used for that are more important - like education and a child abuse and neglect reduction plan the state commissioned a study on (I worked with Senator Donny Olson and others to add an amendment to start implementing this plan).
That's why waste matters. It eats away at our savings, and takes away from things that matter.
OK. That's off my chest. I hope you are enjoying your summer! As always, call with any questions.
(signed) Les Gara