- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 18, 2017

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota’s multimillionaire Republican Gov. Doug Burgum wants to pay for additions such as a heated garage floor to a new $5 million governor’s mansion but GOP leaders in the Legislature say no.

House Majority Leader Al Carlson and his Republican Senate counterpart, Rich Wardner, said the design has already been approved by a committee and the new governor doesn’t get to change anything just because he’s willing to pay for it out of his own pocket.

“He’s only the caretaker of that house - not the owner,” Carlson told The Associated Press. “None of the people who donated to it get any design input, and he’s not either.”

Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki said the governor wants to add such things as a skylight and a heated garage floor to the new mansion that already is under construction. All of the additions are energy-efficient items intended to “save taxpayers money in the long run,” he said. Construction on the project began in September, with completion expected by Thanksgiving.

Burgum, a wealthy former Microsoft executive, also has promised to refuse a salary and a state pension as North Dakota’s governor, even though state law does not allow that move and similar ones in the past have drawn criticism.

North Dakota’s lackluster budget picture due to declining oil and agriculture prices had spurred questions about whether the project should be delayed - or even built. But the Legislature in 2015 approved construction, stipulating that 20 percent of its cost must be funded by private donations as a way to gauge public interest.

The project is protected from funding cuts because it comes from a trust fund established by the state Constitution. Money from the fund, which is supported by several oil wells on state land, must only be used for projects on the state Capitol grounds.

Lawmakers had been attempting to replace the current 56-year-old dwelling for years, saying it is has security issues, is not handicapped-accessible and likely contains lead paint, mold and asbestos.

Capitol Facilities Manager John Boyle said only $600,000 in private donations has been raised so far.

Fundraising committee co-chairman Jim Poolman said the donations include $10,000 each from former governors John Hoeven and Jack Dalrymple, and from Burgum, who is the state’s ninth chief executive to reside in the current dwelling.

Boyle said the current design accounts for the entire $5 million earmarked for the project and approved by the Legislature. Design changes that Burgum wants would not be allowed under current legislation, he and GOP leaders said.

The new 13,500 square-foot-mansion is being built just north of where the current one stands on the Capitol grounds. It’s being built of limestone, granite and brick and is intended to last 100 years.

The original Governor’s Mansion, built in 1884, still stands and is a few blocks south of the Capitol.

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