Disclaimer — Contrary to what your instincts might tell you, the memo below is not fake or a joke. We have verified that both the document and the explanation that goes with it are real.
Incoming House Rules Committee Chairwoman Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux sent a memo to legislators late Wednesday telling them because of the state’s fiscal crisis she has been forced to raise prices at the State Capitol cafeteria. Lunch is going from $9 to $11, dinner will now cost $13, up from $9, and a Danish is going to cost twice as much as it did last year, rising from $2 to $4.
Go ahead and let the jokes fly. Are legislators really trying to close the $4 billion fiscal gap with slightly pricier scones?
If they are going that route, why not open a marijuana dispensary in a corner of the lounge? Not only would they sell plenty of product to stressed-out legislative staff and legislators (yes, Virginia, leggies smoke plenty of weed) but they’d also sell a lot more of the snacky offerings. It’s a win-win, right?
On its face, this action may seem primed for ridicule, but the wider view shows something different. In just the last month the State House has cut its spending on travel, relocation, office accounts, and capped staff pay ranges. Add to that increasing prices in the legislative lounge and it’s becoming clear the new bipartisan House leadership is showing more of a commitment to cutting where it hits home than their current State Senate colleagues.
Any one of those cuts may be small, but collectively the message is meaningful.
Every government expenditure has a constituency, that is why the state budget is so hard to cut. That the new House Leadership is willing to cut costs or increase fees where it impacts them personally does more to show they recognize there is a problem than anything else could.
In an email Wednesday night, LeDoux told us, “The prices were increased to bring them more in line with what prices would be on the outside. Because I believe we need to lead by example.”
LeDoux couldn’t say specifically how much the legislative lounge cost Alaskans last year or will cost this year, but did say, “My understanding is that food has pretty much paid for itself in the past. Now that we have raised the price it should somewhat offset the costs of the lounge staff. But at this point not totally sure how much.”
Charged to the State House
Charged to the State Senate
I asked LeDoux if, given the State’s budget problems, she had considered closing the lounge and theoretically saving all of that staff money, rather than raising prices. She said, “I did not consider closing the lounge altogether because the lounge does keep people in the building where they can get work done, sometimes at their desks.”