ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A plan to construct a $77 million building to house Minnesota's 67 state senators is moving forward after the Senate Rules Committee approved the proposal on Monday.
The project matches one that the House Rules Committee approved Friday by a single vote. It would cost $13 million less than the original proposal the Senate Rules Committee approved earlier this year.
Delaying one parking lot, making another user-financed and halving the number of conference rooms enabled state Department of Administration officials to cut the plan's cost.
The proposed Senate building is part of a $273 million project to renovate the Capitol.
"I'd like to move the Capitol back to the appearance it had to the public in 1905; that's what I'd like it to be," Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, said after the hearing.
While the overall renovation has bipartisan support, Republicans have attacked the proposed project as a wasteful and unnecessary use of taxpayer money.
"The Capitol already has space for the Senate. And the State Office Building already has space," said Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, during the hearing. "It seems we have twice as many offices as we have senators. How does that work?"
Democrats have said the building is critical because the renovation will eliminate offices and hearing rooms and provide more Capitol space for the visiting public.
Yet even Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has questioned the project's scope.
GOP state senators peppered government officials with questions during the Monday hearing over the new building's size, the amount of space designed at the Capitol for use by the governor and the number of offices some representatives will have.
"This is too much for me," said Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa, during the hearing. "It's frustrating for me. It's government math. The costs are going up. As square footage goes up, costs should be going down."
Wayne Waslaski, real estate and construction services senior director for the state Department of Administration, explained some project costs have increased due to inflation from missing a March 1 construction target date. A redesign that moved mechanical systems to the roof from the ground floor also raised parts of the project prices.
Groundbreaking is scheduled on July 1.