Responding to our post on the bonding process, state Rep. Matt Dean from Stillwater, an architect by trade, sent the following comments. Dean notes that the state does need to spend money on public buildings — and not “cheap ugly-ass buildings that do not work well and fall apart quickly.” It’s not the need, but the process that Dean questions.
What do you want to build? Why? And how do you propose to take care of it? Those are the questions legislators ought to address says Dean, but seldom do. Instead, the state builds new and expands rather than repairs and maintain just what it needs. Dean has a solution.
As an architect, I like to see stuff get built. But as a conservative, I hate to see the state waste money. As a conservative architect, I get pissed off when I see the state spend money on cheap ugly-ass buildings that do not work well and fall apart quickly.
The state does need to spend money on public buildings. We also need to spend money to keep them up. Bonding makes the most sense to pay for it. The real questions are: What do you want to build? Why? And how do you propose to take care of it? We have traditionally set our budget at no more than three percent of general revenue. This year, after scolding the GOP for attempting to break the limit in the past (credit card spending) the DFL wants to blow by the limit generally accepted by the bond houses as fiscally prudent to keep our rating.
Staying below the three percent level makes sense to me. That means we really can not spend the $300M-plus. Not even the $250M proposed by the house. Typically when the senate proposes $300M and the house $250M, they usually come together at $550M.
Vitruvius wrote that a building should have “firmness, commodity, and delight.” In other words, it should be durable, it should meet its purpose, and it should be pleasing to look at.
We need to focus on his first part, “firmness.” Where we have fallen down in the past is on the proportion of money we spend to maintain buildings. Why fix a building up when you can build a new one? This trend has given the state more square footage of building space (because we do not tend to sell buildings either) and a sicker stock of poorly maintained buildings.
If they were vacant, I would not be so troubled. Problem is, we keep filling them with more folks who collect money from the government. As we litterally grow government (buildings), I am convinced there is a natural reaction to fill them with government people.
The second area where we can do better is in the area of spending the money. No, I’m serious. We have hundreds of millions of dollars let by the legislature that agencies are sitting on to implement their schemes in the future.
Today I am offering an amendment to the house bonding bill that does two things. First, it cancels a whole bunch of previously bonded projects that the agencies are sitting on (from trails to the theatre-mobile in Mpls. Next, it spends the money on only ugly projects like roof repairs, road installations, flood clean upand roof replacements.
This Guest Post was written by Rep. Matt Dean of Stillwater.