The Illinois state capitol in Springfield.
CHICAGO (Reuters) – Saying Illinois does not need a “Palace of Versailles,” Governor Pat Quinn on Tuesday halted new money for renovations on the Illinois Capitol building in Springfield after reports of lavish spending.
State lawmakers have been embarrassed by news reports that four new chandeliers cost $323,000 and three copper-plated doors $670,000 at a time when Illinois is billions of dollars behind in paying for basic social services such care for the elderly.
Quinn said some of the repairs made sense such as upgrading heating and cooling systems in the 19th century building. But the accoutrements were “excessive,” Quinn said, when the state faces a financial crisis and lawmakers have failed to fix it.
“We don’t need to have the Palace of Versailles as our state Capitol,” Quinn said, referring to the French palace of kings outside Paris.
The renovations to the west wing of the Capitol building are estimated to cost $50 million. It was not clear how much money the governor had frozen, although most of the work has been completed.
Quinn, a Democrat, earlier this summer halted pay to state legislators, saying they had failed to reach agreement on reforms to the state’s bloated pension system. He has come under attack for his management of the state from Bill Daley, a former chief of staff to President Barack Obama, who is challenging Quinn for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2014.