I guess we have some extra money sitting around in Springfield.
Last week, the majority party in Illinois advanced a plan to the House floor to use $100 million in taxpayer dollars for the construction of an Obama Presidential Library in Chicago. The party-line vote came two weeks after the same panel used a controversial procedural move to give unanimous consent to the spending despite the majority of the members not being present.
With $7.2 billion in unpaid bills and a $100 billion unfunded pension liability, it is clear Illinois has massive financial problems that are affecting the quality of life of residents, hundreds upon thousands of whom are leaving the state for good every year. Our available dollars should be focused on state services like education, human services, public safety, and public infrastructure. Why would we spend money we don’t have, on a project we are not required to fund?
Public money has never before been used in the process of building a modern federal presidential library. (The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library is owned by Illinois.) From Presidents Herbert Hoover through George W. Bush — the 31st through 43rd Presidents of the United States — presidential libraries were constructed with private sector funds by the people who politically and financially supported the individual president. For example, President Bill Clinton raised over $200 million, and President George W. Bush raised over $250 million through private donations for construction. I am confident in President Obama’s fundraising prowess in order to build his own library, as opposed to pilfering money from the services Illinoisans depend on.
While the leaders of the majority party in Springfield have floated five separate tax hike proposals since January — each under the pretense that we don’t have enough money to fund our most essential services like education — the same leaders are now turning to taxpayers to foot the $100 million bill for the construction of the Obama Library. While I support locating the Obama Library in Illinois, it is irresponsible to suggest using taxpayer money to help fund it given the state’s grim fiscal condition.
From the May 21-27, 2014, issue