Okla. House speaker talks Capitol repair, tax cuts

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The state Capitol architect briefed House Republicans on some of the major repairs needed for the nearly 100-year-old building, but newly elected House Speaker Jeff Hickman said Monday no consensus has been reached on how to finance the overhaul.

Hickman, who was elected speaker last week, met behind closed doors with the 72-member Republican caucus to discuss various proposals to cut the state’s income tax and plans to repair the Capitol.

“The overwhelming consensus is that something has to be done,” said Hickman, R-Fairview. “It’s just a question of what and how much that costs.

“There are obviously some structural issues, not the least of which is the plumbing issue that’s going to have to be addressed.”

Capitol architect Duane Mass outlined repairs needed for the Capitol that totaled $163 million.

The most obvious sign of problems with the 400,000-square-foot building are yellow barricades erected in 2011 on the south side of the Capitol to prevent pedestrians from approaching the south side of the building, where large chunks of limestone have been falling from the building’s facade. The building also has been plagued by outdated electrical and plumbing systems.

Hickman’s predecessor, former Speaker T.W. Shannon, opposed financing the repairs with a bond issue, an idea that has the support of Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman and Gov. Mary Fallin.

A Senate committee last week overwhelmingly approved a plan for a $160 million bond issue to fund Capitol repairs, and House Democratic Leader Scott Inman said members of his caucus are ready to support the proposal.

Hickman also said no agreement was reached on any plan to cut the state’s income tax.

The Legislature last year passed a bill to cut the income tax and divert $120 million in revenue for repairs to the Capitol, but the Oklahoma Supreme Court determined that measure violated a constitutional ban on bills containing more than one subject.

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Online:

Senate Bill 2044: http://bit.ly/1jxxGR4

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Sean Murphy can be reached at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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