The Norman Transcript

Opinion

April 24, 2014

Repairs still needed

NORMAN — Lawmakers once again kicked the can down the road on making needed repairs to the state Capitol. By a 62-34 vote, they turned down a Senate-approved plan to authorize up to $160 million in bonds to repair the nearly century-old building.

The large number of “no” votes on SB 2044 makes bringing the bill back unlikely. A few options remain this session. The decades of building neglect need to be addressed sooner rather than later. Yellow caution tape around entryways is never a great way to greet tourists and guests at the Capitol.

House Speaker Jeff Hickman is in favor of House Joint Resolution 1033, which would send the bond issue to a statewide vote in November. Another plan would be to commit to $10 million a year in repairs and pay that out of the state’s General Fund.

The problem with that is it takes away from needed state services such as education, health care and public safety. The state’s General Fund already has about $188 million fewer dollars this year than the past fiscal year. Add to that personal income tax legislation that would cost the state about $147 million annually by reducing the rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent in Fiscal Year 2016.

One other option is to fund the repairs from the state’s Rainy Day fund. That account was reduced to nearly zero a few years ago. Today, with nearly $600 million banked, it could fund the repairs in total. The fund could finish the Native American Cultural Center and Museum, too.

We still think a bond issue, set in place by the legislature, is the best plan. It borrows money at a time when interest rates are low.

Paying for long-term capital investments over time makes the most sense.

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