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Democrats Shelve Rauner Plan To Privatize Business Creation

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — House Democrats have abandoned Gov. Bruce Rauner's idea to privatize the state's business-development agency but are moving ahead with Speaker Michael Madigan's plan to make the state's shrine to Abraham Lincoln a separate agency.

Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie of Chicago on Wednesday positioned the plan to break off the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum for a floor vote. It does not include the Republican governor's initiative to give the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity's business-growth tasks to a non-government agency. Supporters had argued that change could cut deals and offer incentives more quickly.

Madigan and Rauner aides had been working to forge a deal that would include folding the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, which currently oversees the presidential library, into the commerce shop.

But Rauner's representatives objected to putting a sunset clause on the privatization plan in order to monitor its success, according to Steve Brown, Madigan's spokesman. Democrats proceeded with their agenda, he said, because Rauner's press operation has been churning out anti-Madigan statements over disagreement on a budget plan and Rauner's business reforms in the closing days of the spring session.

"We were trying to put together a plan in cooperation with the governor that had a lot of transparency," Brown said. "But I guess I'd have to say right now it's under review while the governor calms down."

Whether Rauner will continue pursuing the public-private partnership for commercial expansion and job creation is unclear.

"Mike Madigan and the politicians he controls have made clear they are uninterested in reforms to turn around Illinois, including reforming Illinois' economic development arm," spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said in an emailed statement without elaboration.

Madigan floated the idea of a separate Lincoln library and museum a year ago. The library and museum leadership believes the site can thrive without preservation agency restraints. Rauner proposed privatizing DCEO's development functions while its tourism tasks enveloped the preservation agency and the historic sites it maintains statewide.

The new break-off plan would create an 11-member advisory board — subject to Senate confirmation — to operate the library and museum. Executive directors would serve four-year terms.

The legislation, Currie said, "would basically wipe out the current board and give the governor the opportunity to replace or rehire people who are already there and, also, the chance to appoint an executive director."

(TM and © Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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