Arizona reconsiders sale of state capitol

A couple of years ago, Republican policymakers in Arizona thought they’d come up with a clever idea: they’d put the state capitol up for sale. Seriously.

For GOP officials, it checked off a lot of boxes: the state needed the money; the sale would signal a real commitment to austerity, and it would be the ultimate symbolic gesture to reinforce the Republican privatization crusade. Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signed off on the plan and the capitol was, in fact, sold.

As Tim Murphy noted this week, the decision “was perhaps the greatest drunken eBay transaction of all time, except in this case there was no booze involved,” and policymakers have decided it’s time to correct their mistake and buy back their building.

The move will cost the state $105 million out of its current budget surplus. Brewer press aide Matthew Benson said the state has the cash.

Benson acknowledged the state actually got only $81 million for the state House, the Senate and the nine-story executive tower that includes Brewer’s office when it negotiated a “sale-leaseback” arrangement in 2010…

“Most of our Capitol complex, including the building we gather in today, is not ours,” Brewer said in her State of the State speech delivered in the House building. “So … to make all of our Capitol truly ours once again, I’m asking that you send me a bill by Statehood Day that allows me to buy back the Capitol.”

The goal is to get the building back by February 14, the 100th anniversary of Arizona becoming a state.

The fiasco underscores a larger phenomenon: adopting conservative Republican ideas invariably leads to questions such as, “Wait, we did what?” a few years later.

It’s kind of like Americans electing an unhinged majority to the House of Representatives 14 months ago. Like Arizonans selling their own state capitol, it may have seemed like a good idea at the time, only to look more suspect in the clear light of day.