The new copper-plated doors on the Illinois Capitol are not the only part of the building's renovation drawing scorn for being expensive.
Nineteen state senators moving into renovated offices in the overhauled west wing will be getting nearly $500,000 worth of new furniture, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Saturday.
Per senator, each office is being outfitted with $7,100 worth of new chairs, credenzas, desks and tables. All of it is being financed with a borrowing plan that runs through 2030, well beyond the furniture's likely lifespan.
Critics of the $50 million Capitol renovation project say its ornamental flourishes are unnecessarily extravagant, especially at a time when the state is grappling with enormous financial problems like its $100 billion public pension crisis. The project came under scrutiny when it was revealed that three sets of custom-made copper-plated doors cost a total of about $670,000.
Gov. Pat Quinn has halted funds for future renovations pending a review and has called on the architect to be "reigned in." But Capitol Architect J. Richard Alsop III says he's being unfairly targeted.
Addressing the furniture costs, Alsop told the Sun-Times that some of the older office furniture, which had been placed in storage, is being reused.
"However, the designs and dimensions of the majority of some of the older pieces don't fit the specific space needs of the renovated rooms," he said.
That rankles some lawmakers, including state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, who's a Republican candidate for governor in 2014. He says he is refusing to have the new furniture in his offices.
"You don't go out and buy a new desk or put in a new credenza if you don't need it for functionality," Rutherford told the newspaper. "You use the stuff you've got. If a table leg is broken off or a desk drawer is broken, you see about repairing it, especially in the environment of today's financial situation.
"We shouldn't be spending this kind of money right now," he added.