The Oklahoma House approved a measure Thursday to authorize $120 million in bonds to fund the biggest repair, refurbishment and remodel of the state Capitol since it was built nearly a century ago.
The measure, which was approved, 55-34, is set to be considered by the state Senate Friday.
The project is to address ongoing concerns over crumbling limestone on the building’s exterior, leaky plumbing and outdated electrical components.
Problems with the plumbing are known to send a sewage smell through parts of the building. Some of the grounds outside the Capitol are cordoned off to protect people from falling chunks of the limestone exterior. Some of the electrical wire in the building is cloth-covered and is of concern as a potential hazard.
Gov. Mary Fallin supports legislation to make repairs to the longstanding problems.
During arguments before the vote, Rep. Scott Inman, D-Oklahoma City, suggested a pay-as-you-go approach with money from the state’s Rainy Day Fund.
“I know in my family, if a roof needs to be repaired or the tile in the kitchen needed to be repaired, if I got plenty of money in my savings account, I pull that money out and repair it. I don’t go take out a loan that I will pay interest on,” he said.
In arguing for the measure, House Speaker Jeff Hickman said the plan calls for a 10-year bond obligation and a project overseen by a bipartisan legislative oversight commission.
“We have delayed and put off beyond belief taking care of this building and that needs to end today and we need to begin the journey to make the necessary repairs to the people’s building,” he said.
Asked about the possibility of doing more study of the Capitol’s problems, Hickman said there have already been exhaustive studies and to do another one would be “continuing to kick the can down the road.”
The problems of the building were underscored this legislative session when a chunk of concrete fell from the ceiling in a basement office. A waste pipe in the floor of the hall outside that office also backed up recently, sending smelly water into the carpet.