The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 17, 2014

Editorial: Building issues plagued by financial barricades

Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Everyone agrees on one thing.

The state Capitol building is in need of repairs.

Since 2011, yellow barricades have blocked the south side of the Capitol, keeping pedestrians from approaching that side of the building because large chunks of limestone have fallen from the building’s facade. The nearly 100-year-old building also is plagued by its outdated electrical and plumbing systems.

 Honestly, it’s rather embarrassing that barricades have been up for three years, and Oklahoma residents who want to go to their Capitol run the risk of being beaned by a chunk of the building. It’s also an issue the building often has a smell of sewage throughout it.

Talk continues at that very building among lawmakers on what to do to address the problems. One idea that seems to be gaining more traction is a bond issue to cover repair costs.

This is not a new idea, but it’s gone nowhere in the past. Former House Speaker T.W. Shannon, who recently stepped down from that post in order to launch a U.S. Senate campaign, had opposed a bond issue to pay for repairs.

His successor, Rep. Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, is open to discussing the issue with his caucus. In fact, discussions were held Monday on ways to fund Capitol repairs.

Gov. Mary Fallin and Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman are two influential supporters of a bond issue. The Senate Appropriations Committee voted overwhelmingly last week for a $160 million bond package for repairs, while Capitol architect Duane Mass outlined $163 million in repairs in a meeting with House Republicans on Monday.

Lawmakers tried last year to fund Capitol repairs, but the plan was rejected by the Oklahoma Supreme Court as unconstitutional. The Legislature passed a bill to cut the income tax and divert $120 million for repairs to the Capitol. However, the court ruled that was a case of “logrolling,” which violates a constitutional ban on bills containing more than one subject.

It seems to us a bond issue for Capitol repairs is the answer, and it appears the idea is gaining the support it needs in the Legislature.

What we don’t want to see, though, is other projects added to a bond issue. Repairs to the Capitol are a one-time expense that is appropriate for bonding.

Repairing the Capitol building is something we all have a stake in. It’s not a Republican vs. Democrat issue. It’s not rural vs. urban.

Let’s get this done, and let’s get the Capitol repaired.