House Speaker Michael Madigan may have trouble convincing a Republican governor to go along with setting aside $100 million in state funds to help lure Barack Obama’s presidential library to Chicago once he leaves the White House.
That’s because two of the four GOP gubernatorial candidates outright ruled out spending that kind of money on an Obama complex. A third was ambivalent, and the fourth was a maybe.
Madigan has introduced legislation that would set aside $100 million in state capital dollars as state seed money to persuade Obama to pick Chicago as the spot for a presidential library housing all of his papers and other White House artifacts.
When the question of Madigan’s idea arose at Thursday night’s “Chicago Tonight” gubernatorial debate, Sen. Kirk Dillard, R-Hinsdale — who has taken repeated flak for appearing in a 2008 campaign commercial singing Obama’s praises – delivered the most forceful argument against spending state resources on the project.
“Let’s take care of the developmentally disabled,” Dillard said, adding the school-funding equity should also be a focus over an Obama library. “Let’s keep the ball in our vision where it’s supposed to be. Our priorities are all wrong.
“That one would be the lowest priority I could think of,” Dillard said of the state helping fund an Obama library.
Sen. Bill Brady, R-Bloomington, also has no appetite for committing state tax money toward an Obama presidential library. In explaining his position at Thursday’s debate, he tucked in a predictable jab at Dillard.
“This isn’t an endorsement for Barack Obama like Sen. Dillard,” Brady said. “I’d like to see it here, but I don’t think President Obama or Mrs. Obama have any trouble raising enough money to bring it here to Chicago.”
Private equity investor Bruce Rauner more or less sidestepped the question when asked by debate moderator Phil Ponce.
“I’d have to look at where that money is coming from,” Rauner said. “But my concern is how is that impacting the deficit we already have got. I don’t have a view on that right now.”
Only Treasurer Dan Rutherford offered any hint of support for Madigan’s idea of the state rolling out the red carpet for an Obama library.
Rutherford said he “would be open” toward including funding for the project in a state capital-construction program, should a new one be approved by the Legislature.
“Now that doesn’t mean it’s an absolute yes of $100 million,” he said. “But I think it is something that will be beneficial for Americans and beneficial for tourism here in this state, and I didn’t even vote for Barack Obama.”