Lawmakers don't want taxpayers footing tab for Blago portrait

By Timothy Magaw
Posted3/27/2010 12:01 AM

SPRINGFIELD - Taxpayers wouldn't have to the foot the bill for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's official portrait in the Statehouse, under a measure that cleared the Illinois House Friday.

State Rep. Bill Black, a Danville Republican, sponsored legislation that would prevent the state from paying for official portraits of governors who have been ousted from office.


The proposal, however, would allow the former governor, his family or any outside organization to pony up for Blagojevich's portrait, which Black estimated could cost as much as $25,000.

"I have no desire nor intent to revise history," Black said. "I also have no desire nor intent to see to it someone who was impeached and convicted of impeachable offenses gets into the taxpayers' purse for anything."

The proposal originally prevented ousted governors' portraits from being displayed at all. But state Rep. Jack Franks, a Marengo Democrat, argued the disgraced leaders are still part of the state's storied and corruption-laden history.

"It's been colorful sometimes," Franks said. "Sometimes it's been shameful, but it's our history. It's something that hopefully future generations should learn from."

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Every other governor in state history - including George Ryan - has a portrait in the Capitol's "hall of governors." To date, no one has proposed commissioning a portrait of Blagojevich. Normally that expenditure is covered before an outgoing governor leaves office. But Blagojevich was ousted by lawmakers in January 2009 following his arrest on federal corruption charges. His trial starts this summer.

State Rep. Monique Davis, a Chicago Democrat, said the legislature shouldn't continue to pile punishments on the former governor.

"A judge will give this person and guilty people their sentence," Davis said. "This is not the place to continue to add sentencing to what was portrayed to be corrupt behavior."

State Reps. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat, and Eddie Washington, a Waukegan Democrat, were the only dissenting suburban lawmakers.

Nekritz feared the legislation was too broadly written and could end up censoring textbooks and other materials paid for by the state.

The measure was approved 85-23, and now heads to the Illinois Senate for consideration.