Illinois House members Friday denounced a Department on Aging office lease as a waste of money but failed to muster the votes needed to launch an investigation.

Illinois House members Friday denounced a Department on Aging office lease as a waste of money but failed to muster the votes needed to launch an investigation.

And while some demanded that Gov. Pat Quinn step in and cancel the half-million-dollar-a-year lease, Quinn's spokesman only issued a terse statement Friday afternoon.


"The governor's office has no comment at this time," Bob Reed said in an e-mailed message.


Quinn's Republican opponent, Sen. Bill Brady of Bloomington, said he's trying to get additional information about the lease from the administration.


"Given what has surfaced, it seems completely inappropriate that we could discontinue using paid for state space and incur over $500,000 in expenditures when the government has racked up billions in deficits," Brady said. "Until he provides some justification for how this is good for the taxpayers and the state budget, I don't know how anyone can be anything but critical."


The State Journal-Register reported this week that the Department on Aging plans to move out of two state-owned offices into leased office space costing more than $532,000 a year. The Department of Central Management Services - which handles state office leases - said it could not find suitable space elsewhere and that the site at 300 W. Jefferson St. in Springfield was selected after obtaining bids from landlords.


Reps. Raymond Poe, R-Springfield, and Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg, are among House members behind a resolution that would direct Aging and CMS to review the lease and seek a cheaper alternative. The resolution is currently being held in the Democrat-controlled House Rules Committee.


"To move in and spend $530,000 on rental seems to be an inappropriate time to do that," Poe said.


Rep. Bill Black, R-Danville, Meals-on-Wheels programs in his district have had to cut back because of funding shortages. He said he wanted to give the Quinn administration his first "Let them eat cake, we don't give a damn" award for the lease.


Rep. Sandra Pihos, R-Glen Ellyn, is a ranking member of the House Committee on Aging.


"Yesterday we heard bills that would reduce services for our senior citizens because the Department on Aging says they do not have funding," Pihos said. "Now they want to relocate the department at a cost of over half a million dollars a year. The move being proposed is irresponsible and irrational."


"We need to send a strong message to this administration that they cannot continue on this path," said Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, one of the few Democrats to support the resolution.


The House voted 59-49 to keep the resolution in the Rules Committee.  Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, said it was a matter of following House procedure and not an endorsement of the Aging lease.  He said Aging officials will be grilled when their budget comes up for a hearing before the House General Services Appropriations Committee.


"It'll be one of the first questions brought up.  Why do this at a time like this?" Mautino said.


Poe said he will now investigate if the General Assembly's bi-partisan Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability has any authority to block the lease.


In the Senate, meanwhile, Sen. Larry Bomke, R-Springfield, has introduced legislation that will require the Procurement Policy Board to formally approve any lease costing $100,000 or more. He expects the bill to be considered next week.


Doug Finke can be reached at 217-788-1527 or Doug.finke@sj-r.com.