Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said last week she was “very embarrassed” by the deteriorating condition of the state capitol building in Oklahoma City.
“It’s going to take a lot of money to fix the capitol,” Fallin said at a meeting of the Edmond Rotary Club. “I am very embarrassed right now that at the state capitol, because of masonry that is falling off — especially in the front of the capitol — that we have plastic orange barricades on the steps of the capitol.”
Some lawmakers have suggested using bond proceeds to finance the repairs, estimated at $130 million. The House Government Modernization Committee will begin hearings on the Capitol situation next week.
Richard Ellwanger, chairman of the State Capitol Preservation Commission, said the Legislature must address the preservation and public safety issues caused by the deterioration.
Rep. Earl Sears, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said he would poll panel members to see if there is support for a bond issue for the capitol work.
Sears said he would not be opposed to asking voters to authorize bonds for the project, which could take 10 years to complete. Legislators seem reluctant to consider a bond proposal, he said.
State bond advisor Jim Joseph told the Senate Appropriations Committee last week that Oklahoma could issue up to $300 million of new debt without affecting its ratings.
“We’re very highly rated,” Joseph said. “Our overall debt burden is not what I would consider a concern and obviously not a matter that the rating agencies consider a concern.”
Oklahoma is rated AA-plus by Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings, and Aa2 by Moody’s Investors Service.
Fallin said the state must commit to repairing the building, which was completed in 1917.
“It’s the seat of our government. It’s where our legislative work is done,” she said. “It represents the face of Oklahoma. I think we have to do something immediately.”