Wyoming Lawmakers Defend Capitol Renovation
Some Wyoming lawmakers are defending the $300 million dollar capitol renovation project against charges that it's the wrong time to spend so much money on such an item.
With Wyoming facing a tough budget situation due to falling energy prices there has been some public criticism that renovating the capitol shouldn't take priority over what they see as more essential budget items.
But Rep. Tim Stubson (R-Natrona County), a member of the Capitol Restoration Oversight Group, says public input on legislative issues is being hampered by the fact that committee hearing rooms in the current capitol building are too small and are not wired for statewide internet coverage, meaning people who are not able to attend committee meetings can't follow committee discussions.
In regard to questions about why the renovation work on the Herschler Building can't be halted, Stubson says doing so at this point would cost the state the $20 million that has already been spent on that project.
Stubson also says that contrary to the perception among some people that state government is spending money on a "Taj Mahal" project, he sees it as "honoring a historic building." He adds, "If we're going to do this once every 125 years, let's do it right."
Rep. Mary Throne (D-Cheyenne), another member of the committee, largely echoes Stubson's comments on the subject, adding the plans for the Herschler building have been considerably scaled back. She also says it would be difficult to simply stop the work on the Herschler building without impacting the capitol renovation work "the two are so intertwined."
Organizations such as the Wyoming Liberty Group, among others have criticized the project for what they see as excessive and unneeded spending.
Last summer, Liberty Group's Maureen Bader called the project "a monument to the egos of some legislators."
Bader more recently said that while she doesn't have a problem with work designed to improve the safety of the building, that could be done for far less than the roughly $300 million projected cost of the project. She also says the project may well end up costing more than that. The project was projected to cost $259 million, including the Herschler renovation, in 2014.
Bader has accused the Legislature's Joint Appropriations Committee [JAC] of trying to hide cost overruns on the project.
The legislature is currently meeting in the Jonah Business Center in Cheyenne while the renovation work continues, and is expected to meet there in 2017 and 2018 as well.