With the state in financial dire straits, a bipartisan group of lawmakers are pushing for a measure to create a foundation to generate private donations for the state’s fairgrounds.


Republican Representative Tim Butler said he lives just a few blocks from the state fairgrounds in Springfield and sees the repair work that’s needed, but the state’s red ink continues to grow and having the private sector invest in the fairgrounds makes sense.


“We’re upwards of $6 billion in debt as we could be this year,” Butler said. “I think it’s only responsible for us to look how we can partner with private groups and raise money.”


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Butler said he didn’t have an exact figure but was certain there is millions of dollars in deferred maintenance costs the state can’t afford. Butler also said that having private partners pitch in, like agricultural businesses, it could open the fairgrounds in Springfield and DuQuoin to new programs.


“They could do some good things at the fairgrounds to enhance the facilities and maybe some terrific programs that we don’t see there today,” Butler said.


In a statement about House Bill 4990 Democratic Representative Jerry Costello said he looks forward to working with both sides to create the foundation while also working toward bipartisan solutions to strengthen the state’s fiscal situation.


"With private partnerships that still maintain the integrity of prevailing wage and public works,” Costello said, “we will make it easier to sustain the cherished traditions of both the Illinois State Fair and DuQuoin State Fair for generations to come,"


Illinois law requires work done on state owned property to follow local prevailing wage rates regardless if it’s funded wholly or in part by public dollars.


Republican Representative Terri Bryant said in a statement “the creation of a not-for-profit State Fairgrounds Foundation tasked with raising private funds to preserve and improve the fairgrounds will be beneficial to Illinois agriculture and the industries which depend on the grounds facilities.”


House Bill 4990 would create the Illinois State Fairgrounds Foundation Act under the authority of the Illinois Department of Agriculture. If created, the foundation be overseen by a 12-member Board of Directors.


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