Blunt cuts funding for refurbishing courthouse

Wednesday, July 2, 2008 | 4:34 p.m. CDT; updated 11:13 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

INDEPENDENCE — Gov. Matt Blunt has cut Missouri’s $500,000 contribution to help refurbish the courthouse where Harry Truman got his political start.

Blunt cut the funding Monday, the last day to approve the budget for the 2009 fiscal year.

Jackson County officials working to save the building in the Kansas City suburb said Blunt’s action might significantly add to the project’s cost and could cause a yearlong delay on its second phase.

“This wasn’t for anything fancy or wasteful,” Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders told The Kansas City Star. “This was for securing the foundation and the surrounding areas. This further jeopardizes the long-term stability of this building. If we lose this money, we could lose this landmark. We are talking about the preservation of a national historic monument.”

Truman served as an administrative judge in the building during the 1920s and 1930s. He presided over a dedication of the renovated building in 1933.

Blunt spokeswoman Jessica Robinson said the governor thought that committing state money without a more concrete financial plan would be irresponsible.

In his veto letter, Blunt wrote that the state typically does not fund such projects. He also said that state funding was inappropriate when the rest of the project’s funding was not in place.

Lawmakers from eastern Jackson County questioned Blunt’s decision, pointing to other costly ventures within the same bill funding $140 million in capital expenditures, including $2 million to pay for a weather shelter over sports fields at Missouri Southern University in Joplin. The only other cut was $25,000 to design a special needs sports complex in Kansas City.

House Minority Leader Paul LeVota, a Democrat from Independence, questioned how the Republican governor could justify $3 million in repairs on the governor’s mansion while eliminating the courthouse funding.

He noted that the state funding was a small part of the entire $12 million project and had the support of both Republicans and Democrats.

“I’m really disappointed that the governor would veto something that is so important to tourism in Independence,” LeVota said. “The governor is saying that he does not want the state to be helpful at all.”

Robinson noted that Missouri Southern and the governor’s mansion are state assets, while the Jackson County courthouse is a local responsibility.

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