Analysis

Politics may prevent Quinn from fixing mansion's leaky roof

2014-06-16T00:00:00Z Politics may prevent Quinn from fixing mansion's leaky roofKurt Erickson Lee Springfield Bureau nwitimes.com
June 16, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Apparently, Gov. Pat Quinn is not one of those politicians who is obsessed with leaks.

No, not the news media kind of leaks. Actual water-related leaks.

Just a week after we reported the roof on the Governor's Mansion was leaking into the third-floor bedrooms, we confirmed the basement was flooded.

Despite the mansion being an 1855-era historical treasure, Quinn has made no clear indication he wants to properly maintain the place.

Here's one theory on why he won't spend the money: After complaining last year about the $50 million spent to restore one wing of the Capitol, Quinn has painted himself into a corner when it comes to fixing the house he lives in during his occasional forays outside of Chicago.

But it's not like the administration is against repairing roofs in general.

In May, state officials opened bids to repair the Howlett office building, located in between the Capitol and the Mansion. Taxpayers will pay about $400,000 for workers to repair the ornate ceiling.

Taxpayers also are on the hook for about $115,000 to replace roofs on buildings at Illinois Beach State Park.

And, bidding is underway for roofing work at Wayne Fitzgerell State Park in Southern Illinois. The work is expected to cost under $150,000.

-- RAUNER MATH

Quinn's Republican opponent, Winnetka businessman Bruce Rauner, issued a 10-point proposal on Thursday explaining some of things he'll do to fix the state.

One of his ideas is to sell off most of the state's fleet of airplanes. He says we shouldn't be paying thousands of dollars to fly people when they can drive between Springfield and Chicago for $65 one way.

That figure seemed odd.

According to our calculations, the state employee mileage reimbursement for driving between the Capitol and the main state office building in Chicago is about $114 one way.

Rauner spokesman Mike Schrimpf said the figure was based on a lower mileage reimbursement rate used by members of the General Assembly.

That's fine, but that doesn't account for the various attorneys, legislative liaisons, agency directors and others who must trek between the two cities to do the state's business.

Here's another approach: Since Springfield is the capital city and has a lower cost of living, move state offices back to Sangamon County.

-- MOVE ON, NOTHING TO SEE HERE

Add state Sen. Sam McCann to the list of gubernatorial dabblers. You know them, people like Attorney General Lisa Madigan and former White House chief of staff Bill Daley, who acted like they might run for governor and then backed off.

The pundits were abuzz last week with word that the Carlinville Republican was circulating petitions to run as an independent in the November election.

McCann was elected to the Senate in 2010 on the strength of Tea Party support, but he distinguished himself during the spring legislative session by bucking party leadership on some Democrat-backed initiatives.

He never publicly said why he was running, but he expressed some skepticism earlier this year about Rauner's ability to connect with downstate GOP voters.

The whole exercise, however, seemed amateurish.

McCann needed to collect 25,000 signatures by June 23. But, the petitions he and his supporters were circulating did not list a lieutenant governor candidate.

That meant even if they were able to secure enough signatures, Quinn or Rauner could have knocked him off the ballot on a technicality.

-- THE RECESSION LINGERS

Illinois' unemployment rate is improving. Income tax collections are healthier. Building permits are on an upswing.

But it is still not time to begin celebrating the state's emergence from the crippling recession that began in 2008.

A new report shows property values declined for a record third consecutive year for taxes payable in 2013. It is rare for this to happen. Only twice in the last 35 years has Illinois even seen a one-year decline in property values.

And, it didn't mean property bills went down.

"Homeowners, famously, saw the value of their homes decline at the same time that their property tax bills were going up," wrote Mike Klemens, author of the report issued by the Taxpayers Federation of Illinois.

The numbers show that while the property tax based declined 18 percent, the amount of property taxes billed rose by 6 percent.

Is there a bright spot out there? Somewhere? Please?

Sort of. In the report, Klemens suggests a recovering real estate market could bring some hope to homeowners and local governments that rely on property taxes.

The opinions are the writer's. Kurt Erickson is the Lee Enterprises Springfield bureau chief. He can be reached at kurt.erickson@lee.net or (217) 782-4043.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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