SAINT PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Senate Rules Committee voted to approve a new Senate Office Building Monday evening. The Rules Committee vote was the last hurdle for proponents of the $76 million plan.

Earlier, the House Rules Committee approved the plan, which was a compromise from the original $93 million proposal. Democrats argued that the building is needed to remedy overcrowding in the Capitol itself. Republicans had objected to the building as unneeded and over-priced.

The plan to move all 67 senators into the new building would allow expanded space for the Governor's office inside the Capitol, which is undergoing a major restoration. Republicans had considered the plan a "space grab" by DFL Governor Mark Dayton.

Dayton had commented that he considered the original plan "too opulent." That led to the downsized price tag.

Excluded from the first plan were a reflecting pool, a fitness center and a parking ramp. Added to the structure were the 67 offices, up from 44 in the original plan.

Proponents say the new building, across University Avenue from the backside of the Capitol, will make handicap access to the tunnel system possible. A tunnel under University Avenue exists and will connect the new office building to the Capitol.

Republicans posed a series of questions at the Rules Committee hearing, including asking how high the new building would be and would it be taller than the Capitol? If so, how much taller? Administration officials were on hand to answer the questions.

The proposed Senate building is part of a bipartisan-supported $273 million project to renovate the Capitol. Construction of the new building is scheduled to begin on July 1.

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