Private citizens are doing what Illinois’ lawmakers wouldn’t do, and that’s create a foundation to accept donations for upkeep and at the state’s two fairgrounds.
Gov. Bruce Rauner celebrated the creation of the State Fair Foundation today during Agriculture Day at the Illinois State Fair in Springfield.
Rauner said that between the Springfield and DuQuoin fairgrounds, there’s $180 million in deferred maintenance, and that taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for all of that. Rauner said there are millions of dollars in private donations from agriculture businesses that Illinois’fairgrounds are missing out on.
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“In fact, we have many Illinois agri-businesses that are donating to other states’ fairgrounds because they have fair foundations,” Rauner said. “Missouri has a fair foundation. Iowa has one. Wisconsin has one. Indiana has one. Illinois doesn't have one, so we have companies that haveheadquarters in Illinois that are very successful agri-businesses, and they’re donating out of state.”
Rauner said upkeep at the fairgrounds couldn’t wait for political games to play out in Springfield.
The governor has been pushing for the foundation’s creation since he’s taken office. A measure creating one stalled in the Assembly. Regardless, private citizens decided to move ahead with the foundation, which was announced today.
Rauner said record rainfall Friday in Springfield highlighted the need for maintenance to historic structures.
“These are beautiful old buildings, some are 80, 100 years old, beautiful red brick, beautiful stalls, but the roofs leak, the walls are cracked -- we’ve always got to be concerned with safety.”
Foundation board member John Slayton said priorities will be determined by the board, which is made up of mostly private citizens. The directors of the Department of Agriculture and the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency will be honorary, non-voting board members.
Rauner said the foundation's interactions with the state will be open to the Freedom of Information Act.