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Illinois lawmakers gear up for a fight over Obama presidential library

Illinois lawmakers vote Wednesday on whether to pledge $100 million in construction money for President Obama's future library
Obama library battle: Illinois lawmakers clash over $100M pledge 03:08

President Obama may have represented Illinois in the Senate and he may consider Chicago his hometown, but some Illinois lawmakers still worry that the Obama Foundation, led by a Chicago friend of the president, might choose another state for Obama's presidential library. Perhaps Hawaii, where he grew up, or New York, where he went to college.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the president's former chief of staff, said the best way to secure the library is to make a big down payment.

"We're going to remind him oh-so-subtly this is where his wife and family are from, this is where his kids were raised, this is where he started his career. He should come home with his library and foundation," Emanuel said.

Last week an Illinois House committee voted to commit $100 million to help fund the library's construction.

There was just one problem -- Democrats held the vote without informing Republicans.

"There's no doubt they should not have done what they did," said GOP state Rep. Ed Sullivan.

Sullivan is the top Republican on the committee. He and his GOP colleagues called for a revote.

When it happens today, he will vote no.

"People have to look at the context of what is taking place in Illinois financially," Sullivan said. "We are $7 billion in debt. We have $100 billion in pension liabilities. This is a want, and we need to focus on needs."

Presidential libraries don't come cheap. The Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Ark. cost $165 million. President George W. Bush's library in Dallas, Texas cost about $250 million. However, both of those libraries were paid for entirely with private funds.

Mayor Emanuel said he sees the state funding as an investment.

"That money will come back and create a huge amount of tourism, visitors, and economic development, and you will make that money and more back as a city," he said.

Obama Foundation leaders said they want to announce the location of the presidential library sometime next year. They will make a recommendation to the president first, and he will make the final decision. While the costs are expected to be $100 million today, it's estimated that the total cost to build this library will be about half a billion dollars.
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