Up to $160 million in bonds could be issued to repair Oklahoma’s crumbling state Capitol under a bill approved Thursday by the state Senate. The vote was 36-11.
“We as a state Legislature historically have done a terrible job of taking care of our infrastructure,” said state Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, who carried the bill on the Senate floor. “We have a roof problem. We have a sewage problem. We have an electrical problem. If you walk the bowels of this building, you will see, literally, chicken wire and two-by-fours holding up the walls of this building.”
The governor focused part of her State of the State speech on the desperate need for Capitol repairs, noting that chunks of stone have fallen from the exterior and the smell of raw sewage beneath the century-old building sometimes drifts through the ventilation system.
No one questioned the need for repairs during Senate discussions on the bill, but there were arguments about how to pay for them.
State Sen. Randy Bass was one of several senators who pushed for tapping the state’s $535 million Rainy Day Fund instead of turning to a bond issue.
“Surely ... fixing this building would be declared an emergency,” said Bass, D-Lawton. “Why wouldn’t we use the money out of the Rainy Day Fund to fix this problem?”
State Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, debated against the bill, arguing that it would be unconstitutional for the Legislature to authorize a bond issue without submitting the issue to a public vote.
Treat disputed Anderson’s contention, saying there have been several state Supreme Court rulings that say a public vote is not required.