DALLAS — Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin asked lawmakers Monday to approve a bond issue to repair the deteriorating state capitol in Oklahoma City.
The south entrance of the capitol has been closed for months to prevent injuries from falling mortar and limestone pieces of the building, which has been occupied since 1917.
“The state capitol building is currently in a state of disrepair,” Fallin said in her state of the state address to the opening session of the 2012 Legislature.
“It’s embarrassing for our citizens to see barricades roping off portions of the capitol,” she said. “It’s bad for the image of this state and our efforts to recruit business.”
The Department of Central Services issued a 150-page report in 2011 that said it could cost $140 million to repair the structure, which still relies on its original plumbing and electrical system. There have been reports of raw sewage leaking from beneath the building.
“It is our responsibility to maintain this building — which is a symbol of Oklahoma and its people — and that requires funding,” the governor said.
Fallin said it was the duty and responsibility of the Legislature to maintain the capitol.
“We must pass a bond issue for capitol repairs,” she said. “The people of Oklahoma elected us to make responsible decisions. Let’s do our job.”
Legislators last year appropriated $480,000 for emergency repairs to the capitol and an engineering study.
House Appropriations Committee chairman Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, said bonds for the project would be the only debt effort he would support. Sears said the capitol bond proposal should be submitted to a statewide vote in November rather than be approved through legislative action.
Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole, said last week that lawmakers should pass the bond proposal quickly without waiting for a November vote.
Coates said without immediate repairs, the limestone façade will continue to crumble and fall off. Without action soon, he said, all the limestone could come down within the next four or five years.
Fallin spent much of the speech outlining an income tax reduction plan that she said would result in no state tax liability for families making up to $30,000 a year. The current rate would be cut in half for taxpayers making more than $70,000 a year.
The tax plan, which would go into effect Jan. 1, 2013, would reduce the number of brackets in the tax code to three from the current seven.
The state personal income tax currently generates $1.9 billion a year.
The tax cuts would be paid for with $139 million of new revenue generated by eliminating 39 tax credits and personal exemption deductions, including child care credits.
Secretary of State Glenn Coffee, who serves in Fallin’s cabinet, said the income-tax rate cuts would reduce revenue by $1 billion a year when fully implemented.
Fallin’s proposed budget for fiscal 2013, which begins July 1, includes $6.5 billion of general fund spending. The proposal increases spending by $124.7 million from fiscal 2012’s $6.4 billion general fund budget.