More details about ornate renovations at the state Capitol — including more than $323,000 for four chandeliers — have drawn sharp criticism from lawmakers who say Illinois is not in a position for such pricey upgrades when it's facing massive financial problems.
The nearly $50 million taxpayer funded renovation in Springfield includes nearly $160,000 for two sculptures of maidens at a staircase and the chandeliers, which resemble gas and lamp fixtures, according to a story in Sunday's Chicago Sun-Times. Capitol architect J. Richard Alsop III confirmed the details late Friday.
The price tag of another renovation has already drawn heavy scrutiny: nearly $670,000 for copper-plated wooden doors. Gov. Pat Quinn, state lawmakers and candidates seeking office in 2014 have said they're concerned about the spending and the high prices especially as Illinois has the worst-funded pension system in the nation and billions in unpaid bills.
The renovation is being paid for by construction bonds that were part of a $31 billion capital construction program approved by the General Assembly. The idea was to help restore the building — a National Historic Landmark— and make it appear as close to its original construction as possible.
The newspaper reports that each sculpture cost $78,826 and each chandelier, $80,928.
State Sen. Patricia Van Pelt, a Chicago Democrat, said she was embarrassed by the new figures. She is set to move into an office where the new chandeliers are hung.
"We're not in a position to be spending that kind of money," she said. "I'm just shocked anybody would spend that much on a chandelier."
Steve Brown, spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, has said that the project went through the state's usual bidding and procurement process. He's said the doors were part of a master plan approved by the Office of the Capitol Architect Board, which includes representatives from the offices of all four legislative leaders.
However, other lawmakers said they were in the dark.
"These are public funds," said Republican state Rep. Jim Durkin, who has been chosen to lead House Republicans. "The press corps and the Legislature have a right to know why these fixtures were purchased and whether or not there was a bidding process. I'm embarrassed to say this went on without anyone's knowledge that I'm aware of. And we have some egg on our face."