Posturing pols

Posturing pols

Reports of excessive spending in the state Capitol construction project have politicians running for cover.

It didn't take long for a few news stories about questionable expenditures in the ongoing renovation of the Capitol building in Springfield to create a political backlash.

William Daley, who is challenging Gov. Pat Quinn for the Democratic Party's gubernatorial nomination, put the blame on Quinn after news reports about spending $670,000 on copper-plated doors, $80,000 on statues of maidens and another $323,000 for four 300-pound chandeliers.

"The governor needs to show up for work and actually do the job of running this state," Daley huffed, suggesting the expenditures are somehow Quinn's responsibility.

Quinn responded in kind, stating that "I certainly don't need any advice from a millionaire banker."

But the governor also criticized Capitol architect J. Richard Alsop III for signing off on the expenditures and compared the Capitol building to the Palace of Versailles that served as the residence of the French monarchy.

Alsop works with a committee appointed by legislative leaders on the $50 million project to renovate the west wing of the Capitol. Once that is complete, plans for a $140 million renovation of the building's north wing will begin.

All this wailing and gnashing of teeth comes against the background of a state budget crisis, and the political reaction is understandable. But voters need to be aware that the politicians professing outrage are blowing smoke.

Quinn announced plans to block future extravagances, but the reality is that the $50 million renovation is nearly complete. There's not much he can do to change plans and costs now.

Daley complained the money spent on luxury items in the construction "could be better used to rehire teachers and restore health care cuts for people across Illinois." Surely, Daley knows that the money used for the Capitol renovation is part of a $31 billion capital program that can't be diverted to the state's general operating budget.

In other words, it's the usual posturing designed to score political points. More importantly, it's coming too late. Nobody in charge said a thing about it before news reports let the public in on the secret.

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