Chicago Tribune: An Illinois House committee endorsed a plan today to contribute $100 million in state funds toward construction of a Barack Obama presidential library in Chicago.
The proposal, pushed by House Speaker Michael Madigan, goes to the full House next.
Madigan said it’s appropriate for Illinois to commit public funds for the library even though the state is grappling with serious financial problems.
“The state of Illinois will spend over $1 billion in construction this year alone, so $100 million is not out of line,” Madigan said after the House Executive Committee threw its support behind the library funding plan in a unanimous vote. “It’s clearly a good investment for the future.”
While presidential libraries are traditionally funded mostly by private donations, Madigan pointed out that “close to $100 million in state money” was earmarked for the Abraham Lincoln presidential library in Springfield. “So we have precedent for this,” he said.
Three universities in the city – the University of Chicago, Chicago State University and the University of Illinois at Chicago — plan to bid for the library. Chicago may face competition from bidders in Hawaii and New York City.
Building the library and museum could cost $500 million or more. Madigan would not rule out additional state money going toward the library project down the road, though he said he’s “hopeful that the size of this appropriation would prove to be a very attractive argument to the (presidential library) committee.”
Mayor Rahm Emanuel testified today that Chicago can’t expect to be chosen for the library simply because Obama lived here with his family and had strong professional and political roots in Chicago before becoming president.
“I want to thank the speaker for stepping up, and the state, for also looking at putting resources toward making the city of Chicago all that more competitive,” Emanuel said. “As I’ve often said, we are not going to rely on the president’s affinity for the city of Chicago. We will be subtle in our reminders.”
Though the General Assembly plays no part in deciding where the library will be built, delegations from the three interested Chicago universities came to the hearing to make pitches.
Applicants have until June 16 to respond to a request for qualifications from the Barack Obama Foundation explaining how they would fund the project, its potential economic impact on the community where it would be built, and how it would reflect the president’s vision.
Madigan said it makes sense for the city to present a single location rather than several competing spots. He said he will use his “skills that I’ve developed in the legislature to persuade people to do things they don’t want to do” to try to narrow the list of possible Chicago sites before June 16.
The State of Illinois has the largest yearly budget deficit of any state in the nation again this year (March 2014). The current annual deficit comes in at $47.8 BILLION. That’s a $1.2 billion increase over 2012’s record budget deficit. The state report also includes a comparison against all 50 states and as usual, Illinois is by far the worst.
Illinois is beyond broke so what do they care about spending another $100 million of taxpayers’ dollars. Elections have consequences.