Michael Tavoliero: Time to move legislative sessions to Southcentral Alaska



A recent Juneau rental ad boasted a two-bedroom, one-bath apartment with high-end furnishing for $3,200 a month starting Jan. 1, 2022, through May 31, 2022.

Juneau rental owners know they have a captive audience and they’re working to get and keep top dollar. 

The unreasonable reasoning and the unreal reality of a legislative session in Juneau is affecting both Republican and Democrat legislators’ wallets, stress levels, and blood pressure. 

There are a couple of simple solutions to this problem: Either raise salaries and per diem or move the legislative session to Southcentral Alaska. 

The first solution is being considered by the State Officers Compensation Commission on Jan. 4.  The second is not being considered.

In 2021, a House bill was filed to move the legislative session to Southcentral Alaska, but it died in the House Finance Committee.

This has also prompted legislators to comment to the commission, which is currently considering ideas that will affect legislator salaries and per diem.

This financial dilemma is wrapped in irony because it is hurting both sides of the aisle.

For the most part, legislators’ comments have been that salaries and per diem are too low and need to be raised. When looking at the costs of moving yourself and any family to Juneau, this concern is legitimate. Historically, legislators have had to deal with Juneau’s rental market uncertainty, which can be costly.

The current salary for a state legislator is $50,400, with what appears to be excessive per diem under the rules that apply. Over the course of a regular 120-day session, this salary breaks down to $12,600, without per diem allowances.

This is also higher than the national average for legislators of $34,000. 

The SOCC’s preliminary proposal is a salary of $74,500 and an annual expense cap of $5,000 per year.  That is almost a 150% salary increase.

Under a 120-day session, this translated into $18,625 a month. Per diem would be spread over the session at $41.67 a day. 

That’s a total compensation of $79,500 per year, which is significantly higher than the average total compensation for legislative members nationally. The median income of most Alaskans in 2019 dollars is $36,787 a year. 

One legislator commented on the proposed changes, “Remember, not all special sessions are avoidable and many of them serve a much needed purpose, even if they tend to drag on.”

Seems like a reasonable point, but how can this be backed up?

The 2020 legislative session passed an operating budget. But when given the opportunity during the onset of Covid-19, Alaska’s greatest economic debacle, the Legislature did not help their constituents. The balances of the people’s 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 PFD’s, which was amended into the operating budget, were voted down by the majority of the 2019/2020 state legislature. 

Covid-19 obliterated much of the small business private sector, destroyed our education capacities, and overburdened our health care system. 

The 2021 legislative session had a regular session from January 19 – May 19, then 4 special sessions at the governor’s call: May 20 through June 18,  June 23 through June 28,  Aug. 16 through Sept. 14. Oct. 4 through Nov. 2. Except for the operating budget, not much was done, especially dealing with what is owed under the PFD, which never happened.

According to the Alaska Department of Revenue, the 2021 Legislature’s salary cost of $3,025,420 and $2,575,616 in per diem expenses provided an average of $93,350 per legislator.

For legislators whose permanent residence is not in Juneau, they receive up to $293 a day and no per diem. Legislators who must move to and from Juneau for regular session are entitled to be reimbursed for relocation expenses, in addition to per diem.

Some legislators believe their salaries need to be comparable with state employee salaries.

The average employee salary for the State of Alaska in 2019 was $66,963. There were 16,090 employee records in 2019 for Alaska — one state employee for every 45 Alaskans.

The average 2021 department commissioner salary was $145,000.

What other options are out there?

Like the Percent of Market Value for the Alaska Permanent Fund (the political football that effectively destroyed the simple manageable operation of issuing Permanent Fund dividends), the state Legislature has operated in the far and inaccessible reaches of Alaska’s capital city. They must be closer to the majority of the Alaskan people.

When 32 House Districts and 16 Senate Districts are all easily accessible to Southcentral Alaska, and 22 House Districts and 11 Senate Districts can drive to session and go home at night, the only solution is for the State Legislature and staff to meet in Southcentral Alaska.

In Southcentral Alaska, there are plenty of property options and a road system.

It is time to be move the session to Southcentral Alaska. 

Remember, Alaskans voted twice to move the capital to save money and bring the Legislature closer to the majority of the people.  Anchorage (over 40%) and Mat-Su (22%) represent over 60% of the state’s population.

Alaskans, when you vote in 2022, vote for candidates who are committed to this.

In the meantime, you do have an opportunity to provide your comments to the State Officers Compensation Commission.

On Jan. 4, the State Officers Compensation Commission will meet in Anchorage to receive public input on the question of Alaska legislators’ salaries and expenses. This is an important opportunity for the public to provide its comments on the changes considered.  

The public may send their comments to Kate Sheehan, Division Director, at [email protected]

Michael Tavoliero is a realtor in Eagle River, is active in the Alaska Republican Party and until recently chaired Eaglexit.


  1. While I realize that this gravy train has already left the station, I noticed that motel rates around Spenard and the Airport go for $74 to $150 or more. Is the Alaska Club still available?

  2. I believe this is the first time I’ve agreed with Mr. Tavoliero’s ideas printed here. This is further evidence that moving the legislative session, or the entire capital, is something all Alaskans can agree upon! (Unless, of course, you live in Juneau.)

  3. It’s past time, but you know that already. You also know if the GOP had done as elected, the legislature wouldn’t be so out of control now.

    If you put the legislature on the road system, anywhere from Coldfoot to Homer, you’ll see the same thing happen again. Price fixing, runaway inflation, per diem abuse all over again. Just not in Juneau.

    You really want to fix this? Fix the constitution so we the serfs (ie citizens) of Alaska can cap per diem, cap the length of the legislature hard, and mitigate the hold unions have over government. For starters.

    But that requires the GOP do something it never does. Stand and fight.

    So don’t hold your breath, Alaska.

  4. Good information and well presented, facts that need to be a lot more widely know and hopefully more people will get more involved with these public meeting and offer some input …..we sure miss Frank Harris and his energy working on moving the capital out of Juneau…When I was in the legislature one of the things we traded the Senators was our support for a large pay raise for their vote on the 120 day session limit and as I look back it the large pay raise was only the front of what they really wanted which was the HI-2 those old Senators saw would effect their retirement for years to come even if and when the pay raise was repealed in the next legislature…

  5. What a waste of time and money. Why not come up with solutions that would break gridlock, encourage the legislature to actually pass a budget in time for a change, and work together during session? This is just more wasted oxygen.

    • Do you believe the people of Alaska currently discourage the legislature from passing a budget on time? No one I know. Your solution for breaking the gridlock and working together during session is what exactly? Offering nice feel good sentiments but no substance is truly ‘wasted oxygen.’

  6. Since nobody can get to Juneau putting the legislators in inaccessible status, the lack of affordable space to rent in Juneau, the greater availability of hospital space in Anchorage all combine to let Alaskans know now is the time to meet in Anchorage. Those who want can commute easily. Perhaps the legislators will respond like public servants for a change instead of treating constituents as enemies from whom to hide.

  7. Michael, if you ran for office, like many of us are hoping, we wouldn’t be opposed to moving the Capitol to Eagle River.

  8. This is the story of how we were tricked into not moving the Alaska Capital from backwater Juneau when it was estimated to cost nearly $1 Billion to do so. Instead, hysterical special interests convinced a bunch of hicks who had no idea that someday our Permanent Fund would be over $80 Billion, that our political destiny should be controlled by Seattle.

    What are you going to do about it?


  9. How about the state building a dormitory where our lawlesslators would be required to stay during sessions? With roll calls, curfews (sorry bar keepers) catered simple meals and absolute prohibition or alcohol and drugs. Would we see less “imaginative” attempts at milking Alaskan residents dry?

  10. Yes, the legislators and their offices should be moved to South Central Alaska, not Anchorage. They can’t seem to get anything done in Juneau.

  11. Michael, moving the Capital to Anchorage or Eagle River is a very bad idea. This was understood by Bob Atwood way back when he first started banging the Capital move drum in ’59. His choice was Gulkana.
    Given the complete Commie take over of the disease known as Local Government in Anchorage it is inconceivable to me why anyone would advocate moving another government body under the Bolscheviks sphere of influence.
    Perhaps you might visit the Constitutional debates when the Founders of these United States took up the subject of a Capital and perhaps learn a wee bit more about Alaska and its history before you offer up such jackass suggestions.
    I might support your efforts if you stuck with Old Atwoods plan or maybe, Tok?

  12. Having the “work”, if any, of the legislators available for immediate public display and feedback instead of legislators taking lengthy refuge among the left in the ensconced idyll of Juneau while inaccessible to the working public of Alaska. Much healthier and honest. Less “adrift”…

    • Yeah, let’s really increase the cost of the Legislature. Start with the 40% geographic differential on pay out there and a much higher standard per diem. I don’t want to think about what the federal DoD per diem is for BET or OTZ (The Legislative per diem in Juneau is based on the federal DoD per diem). Then you can add in travel, lodging, and incidentals for all the State officers and employees who have to go there for testimony or other requirements.

  13. I’m going to assume that state legislators have an additional income stream to support themselves. Most working professionals earn well above $50k. That is below entry-level pay for my line of work.

    • It’s supposed to be a part time seasonal job made up of a citizen legislature made up of our neighbors and not professional politicians. I’m not sure where this new pay raise would put them, but currently our legislature is somewhere around the ninth highest compensated legislature in the country. Adding more to their salary will increase their pensions, so we will have the added benefit of paying more for less for longer!

  14. It’s just so hard having the capital in a place that feels Alaskan — a town with no roads, where resources are expensive and land (because of inconveniently large and close-to-town mountains) is hard to develop. Let’s move it to the road system where convenience replaces rural tenacity so we can scream Let’s Go Brandon in person! Go Brandon! Go!

  15. This timely article highlights and reminds southcentral (one half the state’s population how tolerant we have become in being omitted from all processes). Fifty years after the fact this inequity needs to be recognized and omitted. Despite intentions the representation available is not available to the working public or residents of southcentral. Sure hope the capitol is relocated.

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