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March 2, 2013

Let’s fix the Capitolwhile money’s there

NORMAN — Lately our governor and legislative leaders are quick to recall how far the state’s rainy day fund has grown over the past few years. At one time, it was down to $2.65. Today, that fund amounts to about $600 million.

One allowed use of the fund is emergencies. We think repair of the nearly 100-year-old state Capitol qualifies as an emergency. If lawmakers don’t want to use low-interest bond financing to repair the nearly 100-year-old building, rainy day funds look like a good source.

As lawmakers wrangle over how to pay for the repairs, the building continues to deteriorate inside and out. It’s becoming a safety hazard for state employees and lawmakers and an embarrassment for Oklahomans.

In 2011, a chunk of falling rock fell off the facade, forcing state officials to put up plastic fencing and direct visitors into a side entrance. The historic steps are no longer a way into the massive building.

The capitol’s maintenance director says the building’s exterior is not the only issue. Inside, some corroded pipes are leaking and the building’s electrical system is out of date. Repairs are also slowed by asbestos in some parts of the building.

Gov. Mary Fallin has called for the appropriation of $10 million out of current state revenue to start repairs. The governor wants about $2 million to be spent on a study to come up with a budget and timeline. The other $8 million would go toward repairing the crumbling facade.

The building’s repairs are not going away and are not getting any cheaper. It would be a great accomplishment to have the building restored by the 2017 Capitol centennial celebration.

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