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GOP senator: Fund Obama library with tax refunds

Published: Friday, May 2, 2014 12:06 a.m. CDT

SPRINGFIELD – Republicans opposed to using $100 million in taxpayer money to build Barack Obama’s presidential library pitched an alternative funding method Thursday, saying they support luring the library to Chicago but not forcing taxpayers to foot the bill.

Sen. Bill Brady, of Bloomington, introduced legislation that would enable Illinois taxpayers to donate a portion of their tax refund starting in 2015 to a capital development fund that would cover building costs. If less than $100,000 is collected, the check-off box on tax return forms would be removed from the forms in October 2015, Brady said.

Brady calls it a “win-win” plan that would help lure added tourism dollars into the state, but without draining money from an already tight budget.

He was unable to immediately provide estimates on how much he expected his proposal to save the state.

Lawmakers are currently debating whether to extend the state’s temporary income tax increase, which is scheduled to roll back next January from its current 5 percent to 3.75 percent. The rollback would create an estimated $1.6 billion loss in revenue in the year ahead. Republicans oppose efforts to extend the tax increase, but Democrats – who control both chambers of the Legislature with supermajority margins – argue that without the extension, programs helping the state’s neediest residents will be cut.

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan is sponsoring the legislation to use $100 million toward construction of a library. His spokesman, Steve Brown, Thursday called Brady’s plan “a good addition to what the speaker’s proposed.”

Brady was flanked by several other GOP senators at the news conference at the state Capitol, some of who say they feel Republicans’ position has been mischaracterized in recent days to seem as if they’re completely opposed to the concept of an Obama presidential library.

“It’s important to look at the backdrop,” State Sen. Dale Righter of Mattoon said, pointing to recent budget negotiations. He called the proposal a “reasonable middle ground.”

The effort comes on the heels of an Illinois House committee’s passage of a $100 million plan Wednesday to lure Obama’s presidential library to Illinois, despite objections from Republicans.

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