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Our Opinion: Revenues raise exuberance for capital improvements

News Tribune editorial

Rational exuberance is how we might characterize a proposal to direct increased state revenue to some much-needed capital improvements.

In this forum on Jan. 31, we cautioned against spending with “irrational exuberance,” a phrase coined in 1996 by Alan Greenspan, then chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.

We have not abandoned that caution. With the state budget deadline approaching, many spending proposals remain on the legislative table.

But state revenues also are on the rise. Financial statistics released Thursday showed revenues through April came in 11.2 percent higher than at this point last year.

The increase prompted Gov. Jay Nixon to up the ante on a number of projects he proposed in his State of the State address in January. In addition, some of the spending has been shifted from a proposed bond issue, which is borrowed money, to a capital improvements spending measure from general revenue.

Before ending its work week, the House advanced to the Senate a capital spending measure that largely reflects Nixon’s priorities. Like other budget measures, the House and Senate must agree on the capital improvements bill by 6 p.m. Friday.

Most encouraging is an estimated $50 million allocation for structural, masonry and window repairs at the Capitol.

Mirroring our April 27 comments about stewardship of the Cole County Courthouse, these majestic government centerpieces must be maintained.

We commend our local elected officials for recognizing Capitol improvements are necessary, not cosmetic.

State Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, acknowledged the building is nearing 100 years old and said, “We have a lot of problems here. We have a lot of water problems, specifically ...”

Similarly, we support the estimated $13 million to plan and design a replacement for Fulton State Hospital.

As noted in a February news story after a tour of the mental hospital opened in 1851, the facility has earned the reputation of being “the most dangerous place to work in Missouri.”

Missouri must replace these medieval conditions with a modern mental health facility designed to treat patients and protect staff.

Also included in the plan is $38 million to renovate the Missouri Department of Transportation Central office in the Capitol complex and to plan, design and build a new state office building on the Missouri State Penitentiary redevelopment site.

We are eager to hear more details about the purpose, size and precise location for the new building, as well as how it will dovetail with other concepts for the site.

The increased revenue and capital improvement plans are encouraging. Also encouraging is that Nixon has asked lawmakers for the authority to spend the money over the next two years, but has promised to do so only if the increased revenues remain a part of the state’s income picture.

We must remain mindful that exuberance must be tempered with a rational approach to budgeting.

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