Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Kansas turns to KDOT funds to pay for Capitol renovations

Posted By on Tue, Aug 28, 2012 at 10:10 AM

Construction costs continue to rise at the Capitol in Topeka.
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  • Construction costs continue to rise at the Capitol in Topeka.
The State Finance Council voted yesterday to take $7 million in funds from the Kansas Department of Transportation as part of a $17.4 million financing package to pay for a visitors' center and the continued renovation of the entrance to the Capitol building in Topeka. The Wichitopekington reports that the other funds will come from $5 million in savings from the $332 million renovation project and a $5.4 million bond issued by the state.

“I haven’t been the biggest fan of this project,” Gov. Sam Brownback told reporters at the Capitol yesterday. "But it’s just time to wrap it up."

But did wrapping it up really require the approval of $17.4 million on the construction of a visitors' center shell that isn't expected to be complete until 2014?

The veil of fiscal responsibility feels a bit thinner when funds are being taken from KDOT's operations fund to pay for cosmetic improvements to the unfinished entryway. First impressions are important, and the entryway can't remain in its current state, but shuffling money is what folks who are scrambling to pay the mortgage do.

This is like being underwater on your house and deciding to redo the front porch rather than repair the cracks in your driveway. People will still be using that driveway before they marvel at your $17.4 million front door. And winter is coming, which means the cracks are only going to get worse.

Brownback is right to be tired of the renovation project. It's been dragging on for longer than a decade, and the initial cost estimates of $90 to $120 million have long since been surpassed. It's a fine idea to wrap it up, just maybe he shouldn't have agreed to put that final bow on it.
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