(The Center Square) – Taxpayers paid nearly $187,000 for rentals and catered meals for members of the Illinois House earlier this month as lawmakers gathered at a convention center in Springfield rather than the Illinois State Capitol.
The cost for the off-site session at the Bank of Springfield Center from Jan. 8 through Jan. 14 was $40,000 more than what was spent on a similar setup last spring. That brings the total extra cost of COVID-19 sessions for the House to $330,820.03.
“That’s $300,000 that we don’t have,” said state Rep. Steven Reick, R-Woodstock. “The Senate has been able to meet in the capitol building and I don’t see any reason why we can’t exercise some social distancing and things like that and get into the capitol building to do that kind of stuff.”
Lawmakers canceled about 70 percent of their session days last year citing COVID-19 concerns, but when they have been in Springfield, the Senate has been meeting in its chambers inside the state capitol building. The Senate would rotate members in and out for debates and votes. Officials said the Senate continues to monitor the situation with ongoing conversations about procedures during the pandemic.
Messages seeking comment from House Speaker Emmanuel Chris Welch’s office about plans for session days that begin Feb. 2 were not immediately returned.
Invoices from the Bank of Springfield Center for the January session show renting the convention center cost $28,000. The highest ticket price was for audio and video equipment rental at $76,500. Labor to run the equipment ran nearly $7,000.
One invoice totaled $177,863.03 for the main hall and for the catering. Another invoice for renting the meeting room where Democratic caucus and committee hearings would take place, totaled $9,200.
Catering was another $43,000.
Menu items included pork chops, meatless rigatoni, green beans, vegan burgers and 250 orders of “Loaded Chocolate Brownie.” Another vendor invoice for food included Moroccan Spiced Meatball, Chicken and Paneer skewers. The most popular drink was water, followed by Diet Pepsi.
In May, the off-site session cost taxpayers $143,000.