Cost of moving TN state lawmakers' offices nears $130,000 - WSMV News 4

Cost of moving TN state lawmakers' offices nears $130,000

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

A massive move in the state legislature also came with a high price tag. Taxpayers footed the bill for nearly $130,000 to re-arrange Tennessee state lawmakers' offices.

Earlier this year, the halls of Legislative Plaza were cluttered with furniture as lawmakers both old and new, both democrats and republicans made the huge office swap.

To the victors go the spoils, or when it comes to the state legislature, the victors get the good office space.

So, could some of the costs have been avoided?

"Every dollar counts and they should watch their budget as closely as you and I watch our budget," said taxpayer watchdog Ben Cunningham.

Much of the expense was spent on the movers, which totaled $47,000. To paint and remove wallpaper cost $35,000, and new furniture cost $15,000.

Thousands more were spent to rebuild and remove walls and relocate doors.

Taxpayer advocates say there were opportunities for lawmakers to get volunteers to do some of the work.

Also, the legislature doesn't have to bid out its work like other state agencies do, so there's no telling whether the work could have been done cheaper.

"This was a good opportunity for them to say, 'OK we'll bid this out, we'll do this at the absolute lowest cost, we'll apply the same standards to the general assembly as we expect in other branches of government,'" Cunningham said.

These totals are for both house and senate moves, but the house spent much more.

We took the numbers to House Speaker Beth Harwell, who says the number of new members is the reason for the high moving costs.

"We were actually in line with spending in other years based on the fact we had many more members to move. I was very aware of cost efficiency and doing the best we could," Harwell said.

As for whether lawmakers could have saved money by doing some of the work themselves, Harwell says she always encourages that.

"As much as I can encourage members to paint their own office, buy their own paint. When I had my own office I did that. And we've tried to cut costs as best as we can," she said.

Harwell says they were very conscious of the moving costs and says it was necessary.

She added that in the end, taxpayers actually saved money because leaders were able to get out of session early and make some other cost-cutting measures.

Copyright WSMV 2011. All rights reserved.

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