House panel OKs $100 million for Obama library

News-DemocratApril 30, 2014 

— The state would provide $100 million to help build a Barack Obama Presidential Library under legislation advanced Wednesday by an Illinois House committee, which included Rep. Eddie Lee Jackson of East St. Louis.

The House Executive Committee voted 7-4 along party lines to send the measure to the House floor. Jackson and fellow Democrats voted in favor, while Republicans voted against the plan.

It was the second time the committee has voted on the measure. The committee approved it 9-0 two weeks ago, using a roll call from the previous day. In actuality, there were just five Democrats and no Republicans present when the 9-0 vote was recorded.

Republicans objected to the first vote, saying it violated House rules. State Rep. Dwight Kay, R-Glen Carbon, served as a temporary member of the committee the day before the first library vote, because the committee was hearing testimony on a gambling bill involving Fairmount Park horse track. Kay has said someone improperly recorded a "yes" vote on his behalf during the first vote on the library.

Kay was not serving on the committee Wednesday. The Executive Committee has no metro-east members other than Jackson. Jackson was not immediately available for comment after the vote.

The measure is being pushed by Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan. Madigan said Obama's birth state, Hawaii, also is seeking the library, as is New York, where Obama attended college.

"We're talking about a son of Illinois who became president of the United States," Madigan said. "This library and museum will be dedicated to that son of Illinois, and it will be an international tourist attraction."

Republicans say the state can't afford the expenditure, given the state's current financial shape.

Rep. Ed Sullivan of Mundelein, the ranking Republican on the committee, said Democrats have misplaced priorities.

"This comes down to a want versus a need," Sullivan said. "There's no question that the Democrats want a shiny new building for President Obama. But first, Illinois schools need supplies in the classroom, the unemployed need good-paying jobs, and the taxpayers need a break from wasteful spending like this."

Contact reporter Brian Brueggemann at bbrueggemann@bnd.com or 239-2511.

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