Copper-plated doors tip of iceberg in wasteful spending
With unpaid bills exceeding $8 billion, long-term debt surpassing $200 billion and the worst credit rating in the nation, revelations that the “broke” state of Illinois spent $670,000 on copper-plated doors and another$500,000 for chandeliers and sculptures for the Capitol in Springfield is an embarrassment for the entire state. Earning bad press and the scorn of angry taxpayers still reeling from the 2011 income...
With unpaid bills exceeding $8 billion, long-term debt surpassing $200 billion and the worst credit rating in the nation, revelations that the “broke” state of Illinois spent $670,000 on copper-plated doors and another$500,000 for chandeliers and sculptures for the Capitol in Springfield is an embarrassment for the entire state.
Earning bad press and the scorn of angry taxpayers still reeling from the 2011 income tax increases, politicians are distancing themselves from the outrageous expense.
Republican gubernatorial candidate, state Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale, is calling for the Illinois Auditor General to investigate the expenditures and make recommendations for reducing costs.
Gov. Pat Quinn has “suspended” additional appropriations for work on the Capitol, pending a review.
But politicians shouldn’t stop there. There’s an unbelievable amount of government waste in the same capital bill that authorized the copper-plated Capitol doors. In fact, the doors are just the beginning.
The funding for the Capitol’s copper-plated door renovations comes from the “Illinois Jobs Now!” program, as nicknamed by Quinn. The Illinois General Assembly passed this $31 billion capital bill in 2009.
The Illinois Policy Institute was opposed to the bill at the time – which included a laundry list of tax increases and new borrowing only to prop up millions in pork barrel spending.
Piling on more debt and higher taxes to support wasteful spending shows that Illinois lawmakers are disconnected with Illinois taxpayers. This can be seen by the fact that politicians in Illinois have prioritized things such as theater, baseball and other forms of entertainment over core government services. User fees and private philanthropy are better options to fund entertainment options, rather than adding to our state’s unpaid bills and forgoing pension payments.
Need proof? Consider the following spending included in the bill:
- $15.6 million for capital improvements to the Chicago Zoological Society
- $2.3 million for The Old Town School of Folk Music
- $1.6 million for capital improvements to the Lincoln Park Zoo
- $1.2 million spent on theater renovations and infrastructure for the Muntu Dance Theater
- $500,000 for development and construction of the Chicago Baseball Museum and Stadium
- $100,000 for renovations to the Dolphinarium at the Brookfield Zoo;
When government officials waste the money they collect from hardworking Illinoisans, they are directly disrespecting the value of the taxpayers and their money. And despite Illinois’ mountain of debt and sky-high taxes, lawmakers funded this wasteful spending through millions in new borrowing and higher taxes.
- $13 billion in new borrowing
- $300 million from video gambling
- Tax hikes on candy, sweetened tea, coffee, grooming and hygiene products
- Tax hikes on wine, spirits and certain beer products
- Increasing certificate of title fees and driver’s license fees
- Additional federal and local funds
Even though the bill included significant tax hikes, it received significant bipartisan support. All four legislative leaders voted for the bill, including Republican House Minority Leader Tom Cross and Republican Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno. Republican House Minority Leader-elect Jim Durkin also supported the bill.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Dillard supported the bill, while gubernatorial candidates state Sen. Dan Rutherford and state Sen. Bill Brady opposed it. Candidate Bruce Rauner, former chairman of private equity firm GTCR, wasn’t a member of the General Assembly and did not vote.
While there’s no question Illinois needs capital construction projects, capital bills are often filled with wasteful spending projects that create unnecessary burdens on Illinois taxpayers.
To get better results from state government, citizens need to hold their elected officials accountable when they vote for wasteful government spending. The first place to start is the vote tally for both the Senate and the House.
If elected officials want to represent the state’s overburdened taxpayers they should dutifully question every expenditure in Quinn’s “Illinois Jobs Now!” program, and not just the ones that make big headlines. A good place to start reviewing the millions in wasteful spending in the 2009 capital bill is the Illinois Policy Institute’s capital bill Piglet Book.