Illinois governor, legislators pushing bill for fairground funding

After years of neglect, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner says the state fair system needs $180 million in upgrades to compete with surrounding states.

"We have got to protect these fairgrounds. We haven’t been investing in our fairgrounds for decades," said Rauner. "This isn’t a recent problem. We haven’t been investing and protecting our assets."

Illinois law doesn’t allow for private donations to the fairgrounds, but a new fairgrounds foundation bill seeks to change that.

"Every dollar that we raise in donations to help the fairgrounds grows our economy," said Rauner. "That’s a dollar the taxpayers don’t have to put in. That’s a dollar we can put in our school system. That’s a dollar we can put in our human services."

The way the bill works is simple: corporate sponsors like John Deere or ADM would be able to make donations used for repairs throughout the fairground. 

First up on the governor’s list for replacement are the grandstands.

"The grandstands are beautiful, old, traditional grandstands, and they’re deteriorating," said Rauner. "That’s one of the things we should refurbish."

Using his position on the agriculture committee, Democratic state Rep. Jerry Costello believes he has the bi-partisan support needed for the bill to pass.

"I would not be on the fence. I would absolutely love to see a new grandstand," said Costello. "I would love to see anything we can do to revitalize the fairgrounds."

Costello says he believes the bill will pass, because it includes language ensuring prevailing wage for all workers on any fair project.

The fairgrounds foundation bill failed last year after House Speaker Mike Madigan refused to call the bill for a vote.

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