As federal spending watchdogs keep an eye out for $100 hammers, Illinois is getting away with $669,608 doors.
That's right: The broke-as-a-joke Land of Lincoln, with its abysmally funded pension system and toilet-level credit rating, is dropping major coin to renovate the Capitol building in Springfield.
The $50 million renovation project of the building, a National Historic Landmark, is nearing completion; plenty of updates to insulation, the HVAC system and others were made to bring the aging building up to snuff safety and health-wise.
Last week, however, someone from Capitol Architect J. Richard Alsop III's office let it slip to the Star-Journal Register that part of the renovation costs included three ornate wood and copper doors, totalling a whopping $669,608 (technically six individual doors -- two for each of three doorways on the west end of the Capitol).
Laurence Msall, president of the financial watchdog group Civic Federation, told the Associated Press the doors are an example (just one?) of the state's poor judgment.
"In order to accomplish such an elegant rehabilitation of the Capitol building, the state Legislature skipped the requirement of justifying why that investment was a higher priority than the needed improvements to our water, roads, public transit and education systems that are not being fully funded," Msall said.
In fairness, funding for the doors and the rest of the project comes from bonds issued by the state to pay for public works projects and capital expenditures, including historic landmarks like the Capitol building. In other words, those funds couldn't be used to pay for pensions and other institutions.
Steve Brown, a spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan defended the beautifying choices on Chicago Tonight citing the building's historic significance.
As the state's financial situation worsens -- or as the Sun-Times Marcus Gilmer wrote,"this flaming vehicle of financial disaster speeds towards the cliff" -- we can't help but think this of our state's bottom line: