Governor’s budget names state building projects that could get bond money

Oregon State Capitol
Capitol: Plans for seismic reinforcement, and general renovation of 1938 portion, $30 million proposed from state bonds. / KOBBI R. BLAIR / Statesman Journal

By Peter Wong
Statesman Journal

Oregon lawmakers will soon decide what construction projects will qualify for state bonds in the next two years.

A number of the projects were included in the budget that Gov. John Kitzhaber presented to lawmakers on Nov. 30, including a 174-bed state hospital in Junction City linked to the Oregon State Hospital modernization project, and new buildings at Chemeketa Community College, Western Oregon University and Oregon State University. Kitzhaber’s budget proposed a lump sum of $275 million, and then he proposed specific projects after the legislative session got under way in February.

His budget also proposes money for a new computer system for the state Division of Child Support — two-thirds of the tab will be picked up by the federal government — and for seismic reinforcement and general renovation of the Supreme Court Building.

For the Supreme Court Building, which dates to 1914, only exterior repairs are planned in the next two years. Although lawmakers authorized replacement of the roof back in 2009, there are nets on the building’s cornices because it is crumbling.

A legislative budget subcommittee last week wrapped up hearings on requested projects over the past four weeks.

The state will have greater capacity for debt in the next two years.

New bonds were severely restricted in the current two-year budget cycle, except for unfinished construction projects such as the Oregon State Hospital replacement in Salem. Also, the state will pay off the last installment of a 10-year bond, backed by its share of the national tobacco settlement, that balanced the 2001-03 budget,

At least a couple of requests for bond money did not make it into the governor’s budget.

Lawmakers had authorized initial phases for modernization of the Department of Revenue’s computer system. But work was put on hold during the economic downturn, and Kitzhaber did not propose the next installment in his budget.

Agency Director James Bucholz said he would not pursue any of the $69.2 million required for the project until the next two-year budget.

The other project is for $30 million to prepare plans for seismic reinforcement of the Capitol and its office wings, and general renovation of the 1938 Capitol.

“That’s the amount necessary to get the architects and engineers rolling on this project,” said Gary Wilhelms of Tigard, a former legislator who led a panel reviewing the Capitol master plan last year.

The panel’s final report was presented to a joint legislative committee on April 10.

The money would not cover construction or relocation costs, which are estimated to top $200 million. Wilhelms said a decision to proceed with the project would be up to lawmakers after the plans are completed in 2015.

Lawmakers in 2001 authorized a renovation of the Capitol office wings, but because of the 2002 economic downturn, most of the actual construction was put off until 2007 and 2008.

pwong@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6745 or Twitter.com/capitolwong

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