House Committee Approves Less Expensive Plan for Senate Office Building Project

Updated: 04/04/2014 8:19 PM KSTP.com By: Cassie Hart

Image: Minnesota House of Representatives
Image: Minnesota House of Representatives

A House committee on Friday approved a lower-cost option for the controversial new Senate Office Building project on a 14-13 vote.

The alternate plan would cost $76.8 million. The issue goes back to the Senate, who already approved the $90 million plan. Senate Democrats are pushing for funding for the building so construction can start as soon as possible.

The House Rules Committee discussed the office building plans and state Capitol renovations. Lawmakers requested the information after they discussed other options for the building.

"The State Capitol is a treasure for the people of Minnesota," said House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, Chair of the House Rules Committee. "The House insisted on changes to the original proposal to reduce costs and enhance the ability of the public to participate in the legislature - both in the State Capitol and in legislative buildings. With these improvements, we are ready to move forward with the least expensive choice and best choice for the public to enjoy and utilize the State Capitol complex for the next 100 years."

The newly-approved plan includes key changes from the original plan, including:

The ongoing Capitol Restoration Project will displace senators for at least a year, and designs call for less Senate space in the redone building. That's led to a push for a new office building near the Capitol with permanent senate offices.

Those opposing the building say the state should make do with the space it has and reconfigure Capitol renovation plans if necessary. Republicans called structure wasteful, unnecessary and improperly authorized.

Just last week, five Republicans running for Minnesota governor united in their opposition to the Senate Office Building. They say the building represents misplaced priorities by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and his party's legislative leaders.
        
Dayton's spokesman had no immediate comment on the criticism.