Speaker Madigan’s Patronage Hacks

First posted at CapitolFax

* Dave McKinney took a look at House Speaker Michael Madigan’s 2012 nominating petitions and found that Patrick Ward was one of 30 circulators. Ward was at the center of the Metra controversy. Madigan tried to help him get a raise, and when the agency’s top dog balked all heck eventually broke loose. Ward ended up with a state job that appears to have been created especially for him.

Anyway, Ward wasn’t the only one of the 30 circulators who had a patronage job

As many as 29 of the 30 people work or previously worked in government; a dozen acknowledge working for local governments. Another 17 appear either to currently be getting a government paycheck or to have been as of last year, based on payroll records that match their names and dates of birth or home addresses.

$670k Doors and $323k Chandeliers part State House Renovations

“These $700k doors were made by  Imperial Woodworking (Palatine, IL). Imperial is owned by Union Labor Committee Trustee Frank Huschitt.” – Allen

Three sets of these doors cost IL taxpayer's $669,608.

Three sets of these doors cost IL taxpayer’s $669,608.

By State Journal-Register

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, a cost first revealed in a column by The State Journal-Register’s Dave Bakke.

Did IL Really Spend $223,000 For A Set Of Doors?

by Dave Bakke | State Journal-Register

A gripe I heard at a restaurant in Carlinville led to spending a week chasing my tail.

The complaint was that part of the $50 million renovation project at the Illinois Statehouse involves the replacement of exterior doors on the west side of the Capitol building. Each door, I was told, cost $240,000. Other people have heard the same rumor, so it’s getting around.

I decided to find out if this is just coffee-shop talk or whether the state of Illinois spent nearly three-quarters of a million dollars on three doors.

I was directed to several offices that might know the answer: the Office of the Architect of the Capitol, House Speaker Michael Madigan’s office or the Illinois comptroller’s office. I eventually checked with all three.

This being Illinois, I decided from the start not to take anyone’s word for the cost of the doors but to see the cost myself on a budget breakdown. I chose, for no particular reason, to begin with the comptroller’s office. But, I was told, that office might not get a bill for the doors for some months down the road. Fair enough.

I went on to the Office of the Architect of the Capitol, the office in charge of the renovation. I was told I would need to ask Richard Alsop III, the Capitol architect, about the cost of the doors. I left a message for him to that effect. That message was not returned, so I called and left another. That message was not returned, either.

In the meantime, my colleague, Doug Finke, wrote a story about the renovation project that was in Monday’s newspaper. He asked Alsop about those doors and was told, as was included in his story, that Alsop could not provide a price for the doors.

Since my phone messages were not being returned, I emailed Alsop on Monday asking if he could explain why he could not provide a price for the doors.

Illinois’ multi-billion dollar bill backlog goes back a decade

by The State Journal-Register

Moreover, the backlog will fluctuate throughout a fiscal year. State tax collections fluctuate throughout the year. A prime example is March and April when people are filing their income tax returns. Those tend to be good months for tax collections and the state is able to make a dent in the bill backlog.

Conversely, February usually is a bad month for tax collections because it is a short month and comes after the influx of tax collections from holiday shopping.

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka’s office has established priorities for paying bills. Some expenses are met immediately, like bond payments, state payroll, general state aid to school districts and payments to foster parents.