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The Wisconsin Capitol isn't nearly large enough to house all state agencies. (AP) The Wisconsin Capitol isn't nearly large enough to house all state agencies. (AP)

The Wisconsin Capitol isn't nearly large enough to house all state agencies. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher December 22, 2017

One Wisconsin state agency has rented space in the same building since 1974?

Jay Weber, a conservative talk show host on WISN-AM in Milwaukee, started a segment on his Dec. 15, 2017 show by bemoaning how much the State of Wisconsin "wastes" on rent for office space.

He then introduced state Treasurer Matt Adamczyk, a Republican notable for campaigning on a pledge to work to eliminate the position.

Adamczyk, who was elected in November 2014, argued that taxpayers are "getting ripped off" by the state renting space near the Capitol building, rather than buying buildings or building new ones.

Giving one example, Adamczyk claimed the state courts agency "basically" has rented the same office space across from the state Capitol "since 1974."

He’s correct -- even if it’s not clear that his implication, that the state is wasting money, is on target.

The space

Steve Michels, a spokesman for GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s Department of Administration, and Bob Lang, director of the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, confirmed that the Director of State Courts office has leased space across from the Capitol, in the Tenney Plaza building at 110 E. Main St. in Madison, since 1974.

The landlord is Tenney LLC. The owner is Urban Land Investments Inc.  

It’s been a bipartisan pattern. That span covers the administrations of eight governors -- four Democrats (Patrick Lucey, Martin Schreiber, Anthony Earl and Jim Doyle) and four Republicans (Lee Dreyfus, Tommy Thompson, Scott McCallum and Walker).

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Adamczyk provided lease documents showing that the Department of Administration most recently renewed the lease in January 2017. It’s a five-year lease, for 57,215 square feet, that started in October 2017. The first year’s rent is $1.35 million. With annual increases of 1.75 percent, the lease payment for the fifth year will be $1.45 million.

A few points before we close:

  • Lang and Michels told us that a renegotiation for the current lease produced a 23 percent reduction in the rent there, saving about $2.5 million.

  • Adamczyk hasn’t spelled out where in a state-owned building the courts agency might go, what the savings might be and what other issues would come with owning rather than renting.

  • As part of a separate branch of government, the courts agency generally has the authority to choose its own office space, Michels said.

Our rating

Railing against the state leasing office space as being too expensive, Adamczyk says the state courts agency "basically" has rented the same office space across from the Capitol "since 1974."

He’s correct, although he doesn’t offer evidence indicating there is a viable alternative for the agency that would save money.

We rate the statement Mostly True.

Our Sources

iHeart.com, Jay Weber interview of Matt Adamczyk (23:00), Dec. 15, 2017

Interview, Matt Adamczyk, Dec. 19, 2017

Email, Wisconsin Department of Administration spokesman Steve Michels, Dec. 18, 2017

Letter, Matt Adamczyk to Wisconsin Legislature, Dec. 13, 2017

Interview, Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau director Bob Lang, Dec. 18, 2017

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One Wisconsin state agency has rented space in the same building since 1974?

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