News Local/State

Senate Committee Grills CMS On Building Leases

The Illinois Statehouse in Springfield.

A Senate Committee heard testimony from state officials about expensive leases. Flickr/Jimmy Emerson, DVM/CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

Senate Democrats continue to press Governor Bruce Rauner’s administration on several building leases in the Springfield area. The administration has entered into at least three leases worth more than the market value of the buildings.

Democratic state Senator Scott Bennett of Champaign says it’s especially troubling given Illinois’ cash crunch.

“So when you hear that we’re paying 40-50 percent above market value in a town where there’s a lot of available real estate that you could get, I think that should be very concerning,” Bennett said.

Mike Hoffman, director of the state’s Central Management Services, says the leases only seem high because the building owners are paying for improvements.

“A lot of these landlords not only have investment in the property, but that have put a lot of money into getting it ready for our use,” Hoffman said.

But minutes from an independent board that reviews such transactions show concerns about the state paying for improvements for which landlords are supposed to be responsible, like adding bathrooms.

The Rauner administration says Illinois has been bad at managing buildings because it doesn’t have money to maintain them.

But an official revealed at the hearing that the state did recently buy a building in Springfield, for the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Senate Democrats have requested a formal audit investigation into the leases.