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Backers of Oklahoma Capitol will again ask legislators to fund repairs

Election-year politics led to the defeat of a bond issue that would have paid for repairing and renovating the nearly 100-year-old Oklahoma Capitol, members of State Capitol Preservation Commission say.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: June 22, 2012

Saying repairs to the state Capitol are critical, members of a state commission charged with the preservation and restoration of the nearly 100-year-old crumbling building said Thursday they will make another appeal next year to legislators to find a way to pay for them.

Members of the State Capitol Preservation Commission said lawmakers should be given information about the building's needs before the session starts next year.

The House of Representatives in the last week of this year's session defeated a measure that would have authorized a $200 million bond issue; $160 million was earmarked to repair and renovate the Capitol. The bill failed 77-15.

Commissioner Mark Liotta, a former House member, suggested that commissioners try to determine why the proposal was defeated so soundly.

“Obviously there was a political reason not related to the building,” he said.

Republicans control the House 67-31, and many were concerned about being looked upon as not being fiscal conservatives if they voted for the bond issue, especially in an election year.

Democrats said the state already has about $2.2 billion of tax-supported debt. Annual debt service payments for the Capitol project were estimated at $10.7 million for 30 years. House Democrats argued for a pay-as-you-go approach.

State revenue collections are $350 million higher than expected.

Commissioner Trait Thompson, legislative director for Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, said election-year politics got in the way of the Capitol bond issue.

“When the herd started thundering in one direction, it was too late to stop it,” he said.

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