Remodeling expenses raise eyebrows

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky House lawmakers are spending
about $230,000 to renovate office space at the Capitol Annex,
despite the state's expected $1 billion budget shortfall.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Prestonsburg Democrat, authorized
the project, which will overhaul about 4,100 square feet on the
building's third floor. That includes rebuilding, rewiring and new
carpet, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Kentucky lawmakers are in the second week of a special session
and are dealing with budget cuts to close a $1 billion budget
shortfall in the fiscal year that starts July 1. As a proposed fix,
lawmakers are considering cutting most government agency budgets by
2.6 percent and tapping about $740 million in federal stimulus

The General Assembly in recent years has been expanding its
share of the Annex office building, located across the street from
the state Capitol, which it shares with some executive branch
agencies. Senate leaders last year canceled a $450,000 overhaul
that would have created meeting space, kitchens, a press conference
room and a lounge.

Kentucky lawmakers each get a private office in the Annex
building, while legislative leaders also get one in the Capitol.

But Stumbo general counsel Pierce Whites said the legislature
had been paying $166,594 a year in rent to the state Finance and
Administration Cabinet on the unused office space on the Annex's
third and fourth floors. The legislature acquired the space a year

"We thought as long as we were paying rent, we might as well
make them usable," Whites told the newspaper.

Robert Sherman, the Legislative Research Commission's director,
said the run-down space had missing carpet and ceiling tiles.
Sherman said the expansion would allow for the office suites to
grow, and add shared facilities for conference rooms.

"While it might properly be argued as inappropriate to expend
inordinate sums on renovations during tight budgetary times,"
Sherman wrote to Stumbo in a March 31 letter, "it would seem even
more unwise to allow some of the most valuable office space in
Frankfort to remain fallow for want of a coat of paint."
Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader,

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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