The Senate approved legislation Thursday that would authorize the issuance of a bond to repair Oklahoma’s state Capitol, which has long been plagued with structural problems.
Additionally, Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman announced the formation of a Senate Capitol Construction Oversight Select Committee to monitor estimates and expenditures as they arise to ensure the funds are spent prudently.
The legislation, Senate Bill 2044, would authorize the issuance of up to $160 million in bonds to renovate the state Capitol. Completed in 1917, the historic building has had numerous problems in recent years, including various safety hazards, falling pieces of façade that have required yellow barricades to be up for years to prevent injuries and even raw sewage leaking in the basement.
“As a state, we have an obligation to take care of our assets, especially the seat of our government, our state Capitol,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa, who is author of the bill. “This is a massive project that has been on our radar for years. Now is the time to stop talking and get to work before the price tag increases even more and the building further deteriorates.”
The oversight committee, which will be chaired by Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, will work with any engineers, architects or construction managers as the project progresses to analyze costs and determine the true amount needed for the project.
“This legislation authorizes up to $160 million for Capitol repairs because we are being told by the experts they anticipate that will be the cost. But, this select committee will be there every step of the way to make sure we are making the fixes needed for government to function while being good stewards of the taxpayer dollar,” said Treat, who carried the bill on the floor.
Senators who will serve on the committee include:
Sen. Greg Treat, chairman
Sen. Larry Boggs, R-Red Oak
Sen. A.J. Griffin, R-Guthrie
Sen. Jim Halligan, R-Stillwater
Sen. Dan Newberry, R-Tulsa
Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Springer
Exact cost estimates on the project are difficult because of the historic nature of the structure and the uncertainty of problems that could be hidden behind walls once the project is begun. However, a study conducted in 2009 with professional architects, engineers and a construction company specializing in preconstruction assistance showed the project costs roughly around $105 million. The $160 million figure factors in inflationary costs on materials and the soft costs associated with such a complicated renovation project like moving phones, internet, office space, temporary locations for employees during the project, etc.
“This is a prudent expenditure that will help us pay for this project, get started now and still maintain a low debt level in our state,” said Bingman.
Last year, the Legislature passed and the governor signed into law a bill that requires Oklahoma’s debt to be capped at no more than five percent of average general revenue collections. Even with the issuance of this bond, Oklahoma will still remain well below that limit. Additionally, 41.5 percent of the state’s outstanding, tax-backed bonds will be paid back by the end of calendar year 2018.
The bill passed the Senate with a vote of 36-11 and now moves to the House for further consideration.