CookieDoughState lawmakers were stunned to learn Wednesday that Gov. Bruce Rauner’s prison director knew of no reason why the state recently spent millions to move old paperwork out of storage in a shuttered state prison.

“We’ve been told stories about vital state records at risk of being lost or damaged as the justification for the Rauner administration spending millions of taxpayer dollars to shuffle documents around the state. Now the guy in charge of the prison system says he doesn’t know why this move ever happened?” said state Senator Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat.

“It doesn’t make any sense. Throw in the fact that there’s no state budget, and the whole situation borders on ridiculous.”

Manar’s comments were in reaction to the state’s prison chief, John Baldwin, answering questions about the condition of the former state prison in Dwight during a Senate budget hearing Wednesday. At least one building on the property apparently had been utilized by the state to store paper records for the Department of Human Services, but those records suddenly were moved to a warehouse in Springfield leased by the state for $2.4 million.

State officials said the move was needed because the Dwight building needed expensive repairs that the state cannot afford during the budget stalemate, including a new roof, putting the documents in jeopardy.

Baldwin said the document storage at Dwight, the roof repair and the lease all were news to him.

“I have no idea at all. I have not heard of that,” he said during Wednesday’s hearing, acknowledging that his agency has “lots of empty buildings.”

Manar and other state lawmakers have been trying to figure out why the Rauner administration is spending taxpayer dollars on a new warehouse lease when the state owns plenty of vacant buildings that are suitable for document storage and would have cost taxpayers far less.

The entire situation smacks of misplaced priorities and questionable management of state resources, Manar said.

“I remember a few years ago the Department of Corrections did an emergency contract for cookie dough,” he said. “If DOC can do an emergency contract for cookie dough, I would think it could have found a way to do that for a roof repair and prevent a significant new liability on Illinois taxpayers.”

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