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Madigan pushes $100 million bid for Obama library

SPRINGFIELD — House Speaker Michael Madigan thinks Illinois taxpayers should provide $100 million in seed money to boost Chicago’s chances of landing the library and museum for President Barack Obama.

Madigan and state Rep. Monique Davis, D-Chicago, introduced legislation Tuesday that would authorize that spending, with an aide to the speaker telling the Chicago Sun-Times that funding likely would have to come from a new state capital bill that could emerge in Springfield this spring.

“He thinks it’s certainly appropriate this complex be in Illinois. He’s happy to put together a funding propsal to be a part of that,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said. “You’d need a new funding source, probably a new bond authorization. People are talking about that.

“How quickly all that comes together is an unknown. The governor has talked about it. The people in the road and bridge business have been talking about it. There are certainly unmet needs with other state facilities,” Brown said.

Asked when such a plan could emerge, Brown said, “There’s a need; the sooner the better. But you have to find a funding source, probably with bipartisan cooperation. But we can always be hopeful.” Davis said the push makes sense now since planning for the facility is in the early stages.

“We’re just being proactive in making sure there’s some dollars available to start the process of getting that library here in the state of Illinois,” Davis told the Chicago Sun-Times. “This, obviously, will show people we’re interested,” she said of the legislation, House Bill 6010.

The top Senate Republican in Springfield appeared lukewarm to the idea.

“Obviously, we’re proud to have the president be from Illinois,” Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, R-Lemont, told the Sun-Times. “But it’s premature to talk about issuing $100 million in bonds to help build his library, particularly with the financial condition of the state — although I suppose they could take the $100 million from the Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.”

That last reference was to a controversial anti-violence program launched by Gov. Pat Quinn during the closing month of the 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Last week, Auditor General William Holland slammed the $54.5 million program for having “pervasive” management and operational problems, prompting Republicans like Radogno to call for a federal investigation.

Illinois appears to be the frontrunner for the Obama library, though Hawaii and New York also have made their interest known in landing the facility that will honor his eight years in the White House and be home to his presidential papers.

The University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Chicago and Chicago State University all are girding to play host to an Obama library. In late January, a foundation was created in Washington, D.C., to help steer an Obama library to Illinois and come up with a single site to propose to the president by early next year.

The foundation is led by Chicagoan Marty Nesbitt, the co-CEO of The Vistria Group and treasurer of Obama’s two White House campaigns; Julianna Smoot, a co-chair of the 2012 re-election bid and the 2008 National Finance Director and J. Kevin Poorman, the Wilmette businessman who took over several companies run by Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker when she stepped down to join Obama’s cabinet, Chicago Sun-Times Washington bureau chief Lynn Sweet has reported.