OKLAHOMA CITY —
Republican Gov. Mary Fallin said Thursday that she's willing to look at "all options" to raise the estimated $160 million needed to repair the state's crumbling Capitol, even a bond proposal opposed by many conservative members of her party.
Fallin, who toured the building with the state architect and building maintenance supervisor, said that while she supports the sale of bonds to finance the project, she's open to other ideas, including the use of growth revenue, cash appropriations or even tapping into the state's constitutional reserve, or Rainy Day Fund, to pay for the repairs.
"It's time to get serious about repairing the state Capitol building and the state Capitol complex," Fallin said. "The longer we let it go, the more expensive it's going to be, plus the more damage we have, which makes the job even bigger to repair.
"Unfortunately, we've been kicking the can down for the road for many, many years ... and to do nothing harms the state of Oklahoma and is certainly a health and safety issue for the people who work in this building and for the public that comes here."
The most obvious sign of problems with the 400,000-square-foot building are yellow barricades erected in 2011 on the south side of the Capitol to prevent pedestrians from approaching the south side of the building, where large chunks of limestone have been falling from the building's facade. Capitol architect Duane Mass showed Fallin a piece of limestone the size of a baseball that fell from the southeast corner of the building.
"We've had pieces as big as half a football," he said.
Mass said rusting metal clips that hold the giant limestone panels in place and a faulty repair job in the 1970s are responsible for the rock and mortar falling from the front of the building built between 1914 and 1917.
While there is general consensus on the need to repair the Capitol, lawmakers have yet to reach an agreement on how to pay for the work, which Mass said is expected to run about $160 million. A $200 million bond issue last year that would have paid for improvements to the Capitol and several other buildings in the complex received just 15 votes in the 101-member House.
New House Speaker T.W. Shannon and Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman both have said they would support a bond issue, but said Thursday they were open to other options as well.
"Our options are to take on bonded debt, or a pay as you go plan, but doing nothing is not an option," Shannon, R-Lawton, said in a statement. "I believe the members of the House and the legislative leadership realize this is something that needs to be done, and there is the will to find a solution."
Bingman spokesman Nate Atkins said Friday that his position is that "all options are on the table."
Many rank-and-file Republican members, however, have voiced growing displeasure over the idea of borrowing to pay for state projects.
"I'm not for a bond, personally," said Rep. John Enns, R-Pawhuska, expressing a sentiment that's shared among many of his colleagues. "They're saying we're going to have more money this year. I'm just saying if we've got more money, why do we need to borrow it? If we can keep from borrowing money, I think we're going to be better off."
Democratic leaders have said they oppose the idea of borrowing money in the form of a bond issue while Republicans are pushing for a cut in the state's income tax. They sided with conservative Republicans last session to derail the bond package in the House.
Although the final revenue figures have not been certified yet, Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger said he's including an anticipated $170 million in revenue growth in the budget proposal he's preparing for Fallin.
Doerflinger said he's reluctant to tap 25 percent of the state's Rainy Day Fund for repairs at the Capitol. That would generate about $150 million but require a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate.
"I'm just not convinced that this is the right purpose for Rainy Day (Fund) money," he said.
Sean Murphy can be reached at
Copyright The Associated Press