House amends bill to restore money for new ND governor’s residence
BISMARCK - House lawmakers breathed new life Tuesday into a bill that would provide money to either remodel or rebuild the aging governor's residence on the Capitol grounds.
BISMARCK – House lawmakers breathed new life Tuesday into a bill that would provide money to either remodel or rebuild the aging governor’s residence on the Capitol grounds.
Senate Bill 2304 originally contained $5 million from the Capitol Building Trust Fund, but the Senate stripped the appropriation and converted the bill to a study before unanimously passing it.
On Friday, after touring the residence, members of the House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee amended the bill to provide $4 million from the trust fund and require that $1 million be raised from private donations.
The full House approved the amendment Tuesday and sent the bill back to appropriations.
Rep. Jason Dockter, R-Bismarck, who carried the bill and toured the residence Friday, said the home has a number of problems, including security issues, a lack of handicapped accessibility and outdated décor, including a 1960s-era pink sink and linoleum in the basement.
“If anyone in the public would tour that place, they would be embarrassed,” he said.
Plans for a new residence include a public gathering space for at least 100 people and a parking lot to better accommodate hosting events.
Under the bipartisan bill, construction couldn’t start until cash donations or pledges reach $500,000. If donations exceed $1 million, the state Office of Management and Budget can seek approval from the Emergency Commission and the Legislature’s Budget Section to spend the extra money on the new residence.
The Capitol Building Trust Fund receives revenue from rental income on 9,985 surface acres and from 27,700 acres where the state has mineral rights. That land supports seven oil wells, four of which are Bakken wells that were drilled last year and brought in $1 million worth of royalties, said Jeff Engleson, investments director for the state Department of Trust Lands.
The trust fund contained nearly $5.6 million at the end of last year and is projected to reach $6.2 million by the end of the 2015-17 biennium. That doesn’t account for the $4 million for the governor’s residence but does assume that lawmakers will approve a current proposal to spend $1.4 million on Capitol entrance and sign projects, Engleson said.
“So there is enough to cover the (governor’s residence) if they go that way,” he said.
Dockter is optimistic about the bill’s chances, saying it won’t use any taxpayer dollars and won’t affect other building projects being considered for next biennium.
“I think we’ll be able to do it,” he said.
A bill last session that called for using $3 million from the Capitol building fund and $3 million from private donations and other sources also received a favorable committee recommendation but was defeated 40-51 in the House.
Reach Nowatzki at (701) 255-5607 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .