Woodward, Okla. —
The inside of the building features polished marble floors, valuable artwork and a stunning dome added in 2002. But behind the walls are major problems, including a plumbing system with rotting pipes that has never been completely restored and a hodgepodge of electrical systems.
The next stop for the bill is the Republican-controlled House, where there has been increasing resistance to the idea of a bond issue.
Newly elected House Speaker Jeff Hickman told a group of newspaper publishers at the Capitol on Thursday that he was embarrassed they had to walk under scaffolding on their way into the building.
"It is an embarrassment that you all come here to your state Capitol and you can't walk in the front door because there are barricades across the front, and you need to be real careful that a piece of the building doesn't fall on you when you're walking in," Hickman said.
Hickman said that while there is a consensus among his GOP colleagues that major repairs are needed, there is no agreement on how those repairs should be funded. The Legislature approved, and the governor signed, a plan last year to divert $120 million from the state's general revenue fund to pay for the repairs — but that bill was ruled unconstitutional by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
With legislators facing an estimated $188 million shortfall this year, the prospect of paying cash for the repairs is unlikely. Among the other ideas being discussed are tapping the Rainy Day Fund, issuing bonds, or sending a bond proposal to a vote of the people.
"We're looking at all those options, and I'm trying to determine from our House members, in the short time that I've been in the speaker's office, what they want to do and what they feel like the best option would be to repair this building," Hickman said.