- Argentina beats Dutch in shootout to reach World Cup final
- Tanard Jackson suspended indefinitely by NFL — again
- FAA investigating fireworks drone flights
- Pentagon: We’ll give Obama a drone strike with al-Baghdadi’s name on it
- Marine in Mexican custody to get day in court after 101 days
- Senate OKs San Antonio mayor as housing secretary
- NFL star likely fooled by Marine impostor who accepted first-class plane ticket
- Sen. Ted Cruz tweets Obama directions from fundraisers to border towns
- Israel hits key Hamas targets in Gaza offensive
- Ten-year sentence for New Orleans’ Nagin on graft charges
Okla. lawmakers debate fix for crumbling Capitol
Question of the Day
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - It’s been more than two years since yellow barricades and scaffolding sprang up outside Oklahoma’s Capitol building to protect visitors from mortar and pieces of limestone that are falling from its facade.
Inside the building, debate continues among lawmakers on how best to finance repairs to the nearly 100-year-old Capitol’s exterior as well as antiquated plumbing, electrical wiring and other features.
Some favor a bond issue to raise money for the repairs, which officials estimate could cost up to $160 million. Others support a pay-as-you-go approach that would tap annual state revenue and avoid creating new debt for the state.
Mixed into the debate are financing proposals for two other building projects; the half-finished American Indian Cultural Center and Museum on the banks of the Oklahoma River in Oklahoma City and a proposed museum in Tulsa devoted to Oklahoma popular culture dubbed OKPOP. Each of those projects is estimated to cost about $40 million.
While lawmakers debate financing options for the projects, there is little debate about the need to repair the Capitol.
“Each project is a stand-alone. Each one will have to be vetted and debated. Our priority, of course, has to be the state Capitol,” said Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “The main thing is we can’t ignore it any longer.”
“I don’t think anyone questions the need to make repairs to the Capitol building,” said Rep. Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, a candidate to succeed former House Speaker T.W. Shannon, who had opposed a bond issue. “It’s unsafe. It’s an embarrassment. Obviously, something needs to be done.”
Rep. Mike Jackson, speaker pro tem and acting speaker who is also a candidate to replace Shannon, said repairs to the Capitol are a higher priority than any other building project.
“The biggest issue, of course, is the Capitol building, and that does need to be addressed,” said Jackson, R-Enid.
The Capitol’s deteriorating condition was also noted by Gov. Mary Fallin, who threw her support behind a bond issue to pay for repairing it in her State of the State speech to kick off the 2014 Oklahoma Legislature.
“This building has become a safety hazard,” Fallin said. “We are doing a great disservice to our state and its citizens by allowing the Capitol to crumble around us.”
A detailed examination of the building found a concrete beam above the south portico that is crushing the brick that supports it as well as antiquated piping and electrical wiring that are original to the building. There is also extensive cracking of the terrazzo floor in the building’s lower level.
State Bond Advisor Jim Joseph said bond indebtedness is not an issue in Oklahoma and that the state has plenty of bonding capacity to afford a bond issue. More than 41 percent of the state’s bond indebtedness will come off the books in 2018, and more than 86 percent will be eliminated in the next 13 years.
“I think we have capacity for additional borrowing,” Joseph said. “Our ratings are strong. The market’s good. The sooner we borrow, the better.”
The Capital Improvement Authority, which provides buildings and facilities for state government offices, has 27 series of bonds outstanding for a total of $1.16 billion. Previous bond issues have financed a number of road projects as well as buildings that house the Attorney General’s Office, the Oklahoma Judicial Center and other agencies.
TWT Video Picks
By Ted Cruz
Banning speech with a constitutional amendment is playing with fire
- GOP: Lerner warned IRS employees to hide information from Congress
- ISTOOK: Flying illegals home would be 99.5 percent cheaper than Obamas plan
- White House plans for bowling alley upgrades abruptly canceled
- Obama requests $3.7 billion to fight surge of illegals
- Power grab: EPA wants to garnish wages of polluters
- Islamic militants aim to take Baghdad airport
- Colorado man offers Obama a toke of marijuana a Rocky Mountain 'high'
- Court orders Chicago to pay NRA's legal fees
- Illegal immigrants showing up at border with 'Yes we can' Obama shoes: report
- Malaysian MP not sorry for tweeting 'long live Hitler' after Germany win
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq
World Cup's sexiest WAGs
U.S.-Ghana World Cup opener