Legacy money proposed for Capitol work

Weathered marble
In this photo taken Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012 in St. Paul, Minn., Wayne Waslaski holds a chunk of weathered marble from the outside of the State Capitol. Though funding remains a question, the Minnesota State Capitol Preservation Commission recently proposed a $241 million renovation plan which would include a complete overhaul of the building's inefficient mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems.
AP Photo/Jim Mone

Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Two proposals to renovate the Minnesota Capitol with money from the state's Legacy Fund drew concern from some state lawmakers on Tuesday that such a plan would not survive a legal challenge.

Rep. Mark Buesgens, R-Jordan, said he wanted to partner with Gov. Mark Dayton on ``getting the Capitol fixed.'' But the two have proposed different ways to pay for as much as $241 million in work that preservationists say is overdue.

Dayton has proposed borrowing money for the work as part of his overall bonding package for capital projects. Buesgens would tap money set aside for arts and cultural heritage projects.

At a hearing before the House Legacy Funding Division, some members expressed concern that using Legacy money to cover the Capitol project would invite legal action. Though the funds can be used for preservation, they are not generally used for Capitol building projects.

David Kelliher, a spokesman with the Minnesota Historical Society, said the state owns a lot of historical buildings. Turning to the heritage fund for such upkeep could set a bad precedent when such projects are typically part of the bonding bill, he said.

Buesgens said it was up to the Legislature to have the final say on the funds' use.

Minnesota's century-old statehouse is one of just a handful in the country of its generation that hasn't yet had a full-scale renovation. The building's marble exterior has problems, its electrical and plumbing systems are outdated and it lacks fresh air circulation.

Rep. Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, the chairman of the House committee and a member of the Minnesota State Capitol Preservation Commission, has signed on to a bill in the House Capitol Investment Committee that funds the project with bond money over several years.

Buesgens' bills were laid over for consideration in an omnibus Legacy Fund bill.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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