Ariz. Legislature spends $800K on State Capitol remodel

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- New carpet, new paint and a bit of remodeling -- that's the story down at the State Capitol, where lawmakers will soon be called back to work.

And with the state facing a $1 billion budget deficit, there are some questions about the funding for those improvements.

Some lawmakers say the improvements are necessary because it's been years since the Capitol has seen any kind of upgrade.

"Take a look at these buildings; these look like 1960 Hotel 6's," said Sen.-elect John Kavanagh. "There's no opulence here. I've been to other state capitols and their chambers are opulent. Their chambers are magnificent. Our chambers are Hotel 6."

Kavanagh supports the House and Senate makeover, which includes office renovations, new carpet and new TVs.

"These are things you normally replace," he said. "And this is a drop in the bucket -- $800,000 between the two chambers."

Some of the renovations were safety related, like new guardrails on a balcony and removing asbestos ceiling tiles. But with budget cuts threatening everything from K-12 schools to health care programs and prisons, some lawmakers like Sen.-elect Martin Quezada say that money could be better spent.

"We're sending a terrible message," he said. "What priorities are we setting when we choose to invest nearly $1 million to give us new carpeting rather than fixing an air conditioning unit at a school, rather than fix buildings and provide new offices to teachers that are teaching our kids?"

Quezada doesn't agree with Kavanagh's comment that $800,000 is a drop in the bucket.

"Go ask any one of the superintendents in any of our school districts what they could with a million bucks right now," Quezada said. "It's far from chump change."