Plans to fix the crumbling state Capitol appear to be advancing in the Legislature.
The House previously rejected a Senate bill for a $160 million bond measure to fix plumbing, electrical systems and parts of the building’s facade, but House leaders are now discussing a similar but somewhat less expensive proposal.
A new plan being discussed by House leaders envisions a $120 million bond measure. The bonds would be retired in 10 years to save on interest. A repair and refurbishment project of this size would be one of the largest, if not the largest project, for the Capitol, which was opened in 1917.
House Speaker Jeff Hickman says the Capitol is in “dire need” of repair, and the new plan would be less costly than previous ones.
“House Republicans have been discussing a $120 million bond issue to make the needed repairs with terms that would have a significant savings on interest compared to previous proposals,” he said. “The plan would also require legislative oversight to ensure the Capitol renovation is done in a fiscally prudent manner.”
The deteriorating condition of the Capitol has been front and center this legislative session and was highlighted this week when a four-pound chunk of concrete fell from the ceiling and nearly hit a desk in the basement. The person who worked in the office found a mess of rock and pieces of ceiling tile when he came to work Monday.
This happened in an area where a floor drain backed up recently, sending smelly water into the carpet.
House support for a bond measure to fix the Capitol has been the missing ingredient in the proposal. The state Senate and Gov. Mary Fallin support such a measure.
“The Senate is committed to seeing the Capitol repaired,” said state Sen. A.J. Griffin, R-Guthrie.
Griffin said a key aspect of any successful proposal from the House would be a plan that provides funding without requiring multiple votes in subsequent legislative sessions to keep the work and the funding going.