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We Have A Deal


After what spinmeisters might call a frank exchange of ideas, lawmakers and Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter met for 45 minutes last week and came up with a compromise on the Capitol "wings" expansion project. Neither side truly seems happy with the outcome.

"The governor is not happy with the proposal and neither are we," said House Speaker Lawerence Denney.

"Nobody got everything they wanted," said Mark Warbis, Otter's communications director.

Otter got lawmakers to back off on two underground stories, a plan that took them two years to develop. Lawmakers got Otter to back off on his outright kibosh of the proposal. Early this week the State Capitol Commission endorsed a single-story set of wings, about 50,000 square feet, which will be used to house committee hearings. But the compromise may not save much money.

"By cutting the space in half, we're not cutting the cost in half," Denney said.

The state had already sold $130 million in bonds to get started, and McAlvain Construction Inc., had already begun prep work on the site, including setting up a chainlink fence around the Capitol.

But because the compromise makes enough changes to the plan, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Joe Stegner, a Lewiston Republican, said the matter will have to go back before the entire Legislature.

The commission demurred on a proposal by Keith Johnson, director of the Department of Administration, to have all change orders go through his agency.

The decision to go forward with a reduced Capitol expansion comes even as the state spends some $13 million per year to rent office space in Boise for various offices of state government, according to Maj. Gen. Jack Kane, the chairman of the Capitol Commission.