State Rep. Cole says budget mess behind closure of local office

  • State Rep. Sandy Cole of Grayslake has had to move out of her local office on Center Street because of the state's overdue rent payments.

    State Rep. Sandy Cole of Grayslake has had to move out of her local office on Center Street because of the state's overdue rent payments. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • Republican state Rep. Sandy Cole of Grayslake

    Republican state Rep. Sandy Cole of Grayslake

Published: 8/31/2010 2:01 PM | Updated: 8/31/2010 4:59 PM

State Rep. Sandy Cole has shut down her longtime legislative office in Grayslake, claiming the state is behind on rent payments.

"My old landlord wants someone who will sign a one-year lease and pay monthly, (on) the first of the month," the Grayslake Republican said in an explanatory e-mail. "He is just a small business guy who owns one building that he has built out himself."

Now that she's out of the office at 137 Center St. - space she's rented since being elected to the legislature in 2006 - Cole said she'll be working from home for about a week. A new legislative office is being set up at 34121 N. Route 45 in Grayslake, Cole said.

Cole, who represents the 62nd House District in central Lake County, isn't the only lawmaker to face office-space problems because of the state's financial woes.

The state comptroller's office covers lawmakers' rent payments, and they're generally paid in arrears. Illinois' ongoing financial problems have led to those checks being cut even later than usual, officials said.

"Today, the comptroller's office has $4.3 billion in unpaid bills in our system," said Alan Henry, a spokesman for the comptroller's office. "We have a deficit in the neighborhood of $13 billion. Revenues simply aren't matching spending obligations."

Last year, state Sen. Dan Duffy of Lake Barrington received an eviction notice from the landlord of his Barrington political office because the state was behind on payments. A second notice followed.

Some payments eventually were made, however, and Duffy was not forced to relocate. Management of the office building has changed as well, Duffy said.

Regardless, Duffy said his rent payments from the state continue to be several months late. He called the tardiness an abuse of small business owners.

"This is just more of the fiscal irresponsibility of the way the state is conducting its business," Duffy said.

The state also fell behind on payments for the secretary of state facility in Libertyville, for a construction project at two College of Lake County campuses and funding for libraries across the state, among other bills.

Cole doesn't seem worried about being evicted from her next office. The landlord is used to dealing with the state.

"My new landlord owns many office buildings with many government (offices) and can financially manage this payment arrangement," she said.

Cole is in her second term in the House and is seeking re-election. Her Democratic challenger is Rich Voltair of Round Lake Beach.