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Our Opinion: Nixon releases funds for Capitol repairs

Gov. Jay Nixon included a tacit message with his most recent release of additional state spending.

Although the governor favors financing improvements to the Capitol and state parks, he remains cool to construction of a new state office building favored by lawmakers.

On Christmas Eve, Nixon released another $40.1 million in state spending he previously had frozen.

Readers will recall that Nixon had restricted $400 million in spending from the budget that takes effect July 1. The Democratic governor argued the withhold might be necessary to balance the budget if lawmakers failed to sustain his veto of an income tax cut favored by majority Republicans.

The veto was sustained and Nixon subsequently has been releasing funds, including: $215 million for education; $2 million to design a new state mental health facility; $11 million for Fulton State Hospital; and, last week, the $40.1 million.

The most recent total includes: $18 million for sealing and waterproofing the Capitol exterior; $7 million for repairs and maintenance at state facilities; $5 million for projects at state parks; and $10.1 million for dental, small business and literacy programs.

“Sound fiscal management allows me to release these funds that can be put to use in several state programs and make long-term capital improvements,” the governor said.

Limits on the release remain; still frozen is $134 million for other initiatives, including construction of a new state office building at the Missouri State Penitentiary (MSP) Redevelopment site. Although specifics remain vague, discussion has included moving the state transportation agency to the MSP site, clearing the building near the Capitol for legislative staff and freshman lawmakers now housed at the statehouse.

The governor has been lukewarm to a new state office building since it was proposed by lawmakers in May. He said then the proposal “hasn’t changed my priorities, in the sense that the government needs to be behind the people.”

We await further detail about the proposed new office building.

We agree lawmakers are cramped in the Capitol; some mezzanine offices do not comply with ADA requirements. But government, like nature, abhors a vacuum; taxpayers must not finance sprawl that ultimately permits spacious, luxurious quarters for elected officials.

In the meantime, we applaud Nixon’s release of money for needed work at the Capitol.

We reiterate a point made in this forum in May that “the edifice, the artwork, the history and the symbolism” of our Capitol must not be allowed to deteriorate.

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