New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced a $300 million renovation of the state capital building Tuesday that his administration plans to fund by issuing bonds.
Christie said during a press conference in Trenton that the 1792-built State House's executive branch portion will be vacated after the fiscal 2018 budget is completed next July. The Republican governor, whose term ends at the end of 2017, said the facelift will take about four years to complete and State House staffers will be relocated to other space in Trenton during the construction period. The renovations, which will include upgrades to the HVAC system, fire codes and wheelchair accessibility, will not impact the state Senate and Assembly chambers.
"I have been urging this for years," said Christie of the renovations. "I am not going to leave here without it being done."
New Jersey has the second oldest continuously-operated state house in the U.S. behind only Maryland. Christie said the building underwent 17 different building projects from 1792 to 1958 with no "significant renovation" to the executive portion of the facility in more than 60 years. In 2016 alone, the state has spent more $3 million on "Band-Aid" projects to maintain the structure, according to Christie.
"Windows are literally falling out of this building and need to be strapped into the window frames to avoid them from falling out and hitting vehicles, people below," said Christie. "The building in short is subject to catastrophic failure in many different places."
Willem Rijksen, a spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Treasury, said the state will fund the renovations through bonds. Christie said his administration will work on the renovation project with the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which helps municipalities and businesses achieve tax breaks and low-interest loans.
"The renovation and preservation of historical buildings both public and private are generally funded through long-term debt vehicles," said Rijksen in a statement. "Treasury is currently working with EDA and stakeholders to plan the financing for the project."
S&P Global Ratings downgraded New Jersey one notch to A-minus on Nov. 14. The state has faced 10 credit downgrades since Christie took office in 2010 due largely to structurally unbalanced budgets and rising unfunded pension liabilities. The Garden State's general obligation bonds are rated A2 by Moody's Investors Service and A by Fitch Ratings and Kroll Bond Rating Agency.