Rauner, Emanuel clash over Thompson Center sale

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Governor Bruce Rauner held a news conference Friday morning at the Thompson Center to discuss how its sale would impact taxpayers.

Illinois owns the Thompson Center and has been looking at ways to unload the property from its expenses. Rauner said the Thompson Center is in need of more than $326 million in deferred maintenance. That includes new HVAC, new plumbing, new wiring and new maintenance for the building's exterior.

"And this building is not worth it," Rauner said. "This building is a very small amount of usable space on an entire city block and it's highly inefficient. It's a terrible use of taxpayer dollars."

The Illinois Director of Central Management Systems said the Thompson Center could fetch a price of up to $300 million. According to Michael Hoffman, the city could then negotiate up to $45 million in property tax revenue from whatever is rebuilt in its place.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office said the city won't see any additional property tax revenue unless the governor is now suggesting he supports raising the property tax levy.

"Governor Rauner is trying to use the sale of the Thompson Center as a shiny object to blind everyone to the fact that he hasn't proposed a balanced budget the entire time he has been in office. That's a pathetic display of misplaced priorities," said Emanuel spokesman Adam Collins.

"This is an opportunity for Chicago legislators, the mayor and everyone who supports CPS, an opportunity to get behind this," said State Rep. Jim Durkin, the Republican minority leader.

But Mayor Rahm Emanuel hasn't called Rauner's CPS plan an opportunity, he said it's nothing more than a political stunt.

"He has spent more time on the Thompson Center in the last three days than he has spent in 22 months on a budget and funding education," said Mayor Emanuel.

Finally, there's the question of the Thompson Center's CTA station. The city said taxpayers would be on the hook for reconstructing it.

While the mayor supports the sale of the Thompson Center, he won't sign off on anything unless the CTA station remains open. Rauner accused Emanuel of using the CTA issue as an artificial roadblock.

Rauner said it's possible to preserve the existing station.

"Let's leave it in place. We can out a shell over it, it would cost a million to protect it, the state could pay for it," said Gov. Rauner.

Rauner said Emanuel and House Speaker Michael Madigan are working in a tag team effort to delay the sale.

Madigan supports the sale. His spokesman Steve Brown said since the sale was proposed, Madigan's staff has been meeting multiple times with the city and state to move the project along.
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