By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog
LINCOLN, Neb. – Gov. Dave Heineman says spending $2.5 million on four bronze water fountains is a luxury the state can’t afford.
“Spending $2 million on fountains is a nice thing to do, but not needed,” Heineman said during a recent briefing with reporters. “I cannot imagine any Nebraskan who wants to spend money on a fountain… that can only be used two, three months out of the year. That’s not a priority expenditure.”
New York architect Bertram Goodhue won a nationwide contest to design Nebraska’s state capitol in 1920, and envisioned a bronze fountain in each of the four outdoor courtyards that anchor the capitol tower, which aren’t visible from the street. They were never installed when the capitol was built in four phases from 1922 to 1932 for about $10 million in 1932 dollars.
But 31 lawmakers have signed onto a bill that would spend $2.5 million to build and install the fountains. The Nebraska Association of Former State Legislators has pushed for construction of the fountains for the state’s sesquitennial.
The bill notes that the fountains are the last piece of the capitol design yet to be put in place and suggests it would be an appropriate way to celebrate the state’s 150th birthday in 2017.
A bill would transfer $2.5 million over the next three years into a “Complete the Capitol Fund” which would be used to construct and place the fountains in the courtyards.
Sen. John Nelson, R-Omaha, sponsored the bill, saying the capitol has never really been completed per Goodhue’s design, despite several past attempts to raise money for the fountains.
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