On Thursday, a committee in the Illinois Legislature approved a plan to spend $100 million in taxpayer funds to help build a presidential library for Barack Obama. While libraries for Bill Clinton and George W Bush were entirely funded by private donations, the Illinois proposal would, perhaps fittingly, build the Obama library on a foundation of public funds.
The proposal for the appropriation of $100 million in public funds is backed by House Speaker Mike Madigan, which almost ensures its passage. Madigan is not only the powerful Speaker of the House, he is chair of the state Democrat Party as well. His daughter is the Attorney General of the state.
“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 approved the funding plan in a unanimous vote. “It’s clearly a good investment for the future.”
Illinois currently has the lowest bond rating of any state. Its unfunded pension liabilities are over $100 billion and it has over $6 billion in unpaid bills. While the legislature considers spending $100 million for an Obama library, it is also considering a measure to permanently increase income taxes. Madigan also backed a ballot initiative to institute a “millionaire tax,” although that proposal was ultimately withdrawn.
Madigan did not rule out appropriating additional public funds to support the Obama library. He said he would use “skills that I’ve developed in the legislature to persuade people to do things they don’t want to do.”