Plan would pay for work at Kansas Capitol

Kansas would issue additional bonds and use transportation money to help finance more work on the statehouse and its grounds under a proposal from Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration.

The proposal would set aside $7 million from the Kansas Department of Transportation to work on the grounds around the statehouse and require the state to issue $5.4 million in bonds for the visitors center. The state also would dedicate $5 million it has saved during its 12-year renovation of the statehouse.

The plan is notable because legislative leaders had said they expected the state to use private funds to finance the visitors center, the last major piece of interior work. The total cost of the renovation has already reached $320 million, more than triple the early estimates.

Brownback and legislative leaders are scheduled to meet today to consider authorizing the bonds. The request for permission to issue the bonds comes formally from Brownback’s secretary of administration.

“Working with the legislative leaders and the governor’s office, a three-part proposal has been brought forward to facilitate a way to complete the project,” budget director Steve Anderson said in a memo to the governor and legislative leaders that was obtained by The Associated Press.

The visitors center would be in the statehouse basement, which has been greatly expanded. The state expects to complete work on the rest of the building’s interior, from the first floor to its top, the fifth floor, by the end of September.

The plan from Anderson involves restoring parts of the statehouse grounds torn up during construction, including a driveway that used to go around the building, as well as finishing the entry into the building and visitors center.

Senate Majority Leader Jay Emler, a Lindsborg Republican, said he assumes the governor and legislative leaders will authorize the bonds.

“It will be great to get the visitor center and grounds done and have the entire project completed,” Emler said. “I think everybody has had as much of this torn-up place as they can stand.”

Anderson’s memo noted that work on the visitors center and the grounds had been projected to cost $20.5 million. But, he said, architects and the project manager, J.E. Dunn Construction Co., believe the $17.4 million in the proposal is “close enough.”

“As project manager, J.E. Dunn is willing to bear that risk and cost,” Anderson wrote.

Also, Anderson noted, the state budget approved by legislators this year used revenues from state-owned casinos to pay off some bonds early, freeing up tax dollars for a new round of bonds for the statehouse. The work will be finished by the end of 2013 if the state requests bids by early September, Anderson wrote.

Early estimates put the cost of the entire statehouse renovation at $90 million to $120 million, but that was before legislative leaders added an underground parking garage and approved an expansion of the basement for new offices. The state also discovered unexpected needs for repairing the exterior stone and replacing copper on the roof and dome.