The Legislature is finishing its work for the week and members are now returning to their home districts in order to observe the Easter and Passover holidays.
The good thing about this break is I will be able to spend more time with constituents and family in the area. I look forward to hearing input from local citizens as we prepare to head back to St. Paul for the final push toward the end of this session. There is not a specific date for adjournment, but the end of April remains our target.
One of the biggest bills remaining to be addressed upon our return pertains to restoring our Capitol in St. Paul. This is one of those projects we, as taxpayers, are obligated to fund to preserve it for future generations. I did not realize what a state of disrepair our Capitol is in until after I took office in 2011. In fact, it still looks good from afar and even as you walk the interior. But closer inspection reveals the walls are literally crumbling.
Our Capitol opened in 1905 and it is showing signs of aging. One of my fellow House members has a collection of marble pieces which have fallen from the exterior wall. Balconies and sills outside the building are littered with pea-sized chunks of material. Inspectors also have revealed the roof is leaking, pipes are leaking, electrical systems are outdated and unsafe, historic artwork is fading, handicap accessibility is inadequate and the heating/cooling systems are insufficient.
A House proposal exists to provide $220 million in capital investment for this project. That is a tough pill to swallow, but the price would only rise if we wait longer. Completing the project in stages is not in our best interest, either, because it complicates the contracting process, making it tougher to hire firms and also driving up the cost.
Experts say we have reached a tipping point, where short-term fixes will no longer suffice and we may never catch up on maintenance if we do not act now. The Senate and the governor have plans of their own and I will let you know what transpires.
Until then, I welcome continued input on the issues and wish you and yours a blessed Easter/Passover holiday.