Senate OKs maintenance, repair bills

Plans to repair parts of the Missouri Capitol and build a new state office building at the MSP Redevelopment site cleared the state Senate on Wednesday and went back to the House because of some technical changes.

Those projects are included in the last of three budget bills dealing with capital improvements and state facilities maintenance for the next two years, that the House first OK’d a week ago.

Like the rest of the budget bills being debated today, the House and Senate must agree on the measures and send them to Gov. Jay Nixon by 6 p.m. Friday.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, told colleagues Wednesday the additional projects are possible because state revenues are “substantially” higher than predicted last December.

“As we sit here today, it’s about $700 million more” than the House, Senate and governor’s office agreed in the “consensus revenue estimate” used to build the budget for the state business year that begins July 1.

“I would suspect that, when we end (this business year) in June, that rollover will be in the neighborhood of $400 million,” he added.

The $50 million set aside for Capitol repairs “is not glamorous — it is to stop further structural deterioration of the Capitol,” he explained. “I think that’s deferred maintenance.”

Schaefer said the $38 million for a new state office building also benefits the Capitol, because the new building will be used for a new Transportation Department headquarters — leaving MoDOT’s current Central Office on the southwest corner of Jefferson Street and West Capitol Avenue available for the Legislature’s use.

“We’ve got outstanding liabilities right now on this (Capitol) building,” Schaefer explained because it’s not compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“And you can’t keep the same number of people in this building and make it ADA-compliant, because you’ve got too many people in too many spaces,” he said. “We’ve got to expand the space.”

The nearby MoDOT building could be used for legislative staff or other offices, freeing up space in the Capitol for lawmakers.

Schaefer pointed to the number of state representatives whose first-floor offices really are in mezzanine space above other offices — but can’t be reached by people unable to climb stairs.

MoDOT officials said last week they don’t know enough about the proposal to comment on it.

But spokeswoman Mara Campbell pledged the agency’s cooperation on Wednesday.

Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City and a former House Budget chairman, opposed the bill, objecting to its $1.738 million to uncover and rehabilitate the old swimming pool and build a weight room at the Highway Patrol’s headquarters on East Elm Street.

“While I believe that our troopers need to be trained, and I certainly believe they need rescue-swimming training,” Silvey said, “they have been getting it through other arrangements around town.

“It just seems to me to be a huge waste of money.”

Silvey also objected to $20 million proposed for state parks, since they already have $80 million each year in dedicated funding through the voter-approved Parks and Soils tax.

Schaefer said the parks money mainly will be used to solve sewage treatment problems, “because we’re already under-the-gun from the EPA on failing sewer systems at state parks — you could put that under the category of deferred maintenance.”

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