ILLINOIS (KFVS) - Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner met with several elected officials to discuss his support for what may be the only bipartisan bill proposed in the state.
The bill (HB 4990/SB 2903) proposes to create a foundation allowing private donors to support and maintain the state fairgrounds in Du Quoin and Springfield.
"The Illinois and Du Quoin State Fairs are vitally important to our agriculture community and the local economies of both cities," Governor Rauner said. "By creating a private foundation, companies and citizens will be able to donate directly to the fair to help maintain the grounds without any additional burden on the state."
Gov. Rauner stated the foundation would have its own board of directors.
"I'll appoint some members, the legislative leaders will appoint some members. Hopefully we'll get some outside folks that'll have its own staff. We want to keep it lean and flexible," he said at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds on Wednesday. "I'd like for us to be as creative as possible. Let's bring resources to bear.
Every dollar that we raise in donations to help the fairgrounds, grows our economy. That's a dollar taxpayers don't have to put in. That's a dollar we can put in our school system, it's a dollar we can put into our human services, so it's a big deal to get this done right."
Nearly every neighboring state to Illinois has established foundations with the purpose of accepting private funds for their state fairs or fairgrounds.
Similar measures have been introduced in the Illinois General Assembly for a number of years, but failed to advance.
"Fairground foundations are not a new concept, and Illinois companies are donating money to those out-of-state foundations," Raymond Poe, the Acting Director of the Department of Agriculture said."We should be doing everything we can to keep that money in our state for our fairs. I sponsored legislation like this during my time in the House of Representatives, and I'm pleased to see my former colleagues continue to fight for it."
Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder agrees the Fairground Foundation bill is necessary to maintaining and preserving state fairs.
"With my experience serving on various not-for-profit boards, a foundation is key in assisting with additional resources that are needed to ensure success," Langfelder said. "To be progressive in today's economy, it is important to maximize resource opportunities."
Currently more than $180 million in maintenance is needed at both the Springfield and Du Quoin fairgrounds. Many buildings are in need of significant repairs, including 20 roof replacements in Springfield, electrical upgrades and repairs to the Grandstand.
"We need to grow our agriculture sector and the grandstands here - they're beautiful," Gov. Rauner said. "Old, traditional, beautiful grandstand and it's deteriorating. That's one of the things we need to refurbish."
Gov. Rauner said it's hard to estimate right how much private donations would contribute to the $180 million in repairs, but believes the donations could help quite a bit.
Maintenance for the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds is estimated to be roughly between $12 million and $14 million. For Springfield, the maintenance is estimated to be roughly $162 and $167 million.
"I believe we can we could raise tens of millions of dollars relatively quickly. I don't want to promise anything yet, it's very early," Rauner said. "But I think there's a lot of resources that we can bring to bear."