Gov. Rauner Renews Call for State Fair Foundation

Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin - each collects private donations to help run their state fairs. But despite faulty infrastructure that will cost an estimated 180 million dollars to repair ... Illinois does not.

It's a windy day on the state fairgrounds in Springfield. Illinois' Director of Agriculture, Raymond Poe, laments a nearby building's crumbling roof.

"Agriculture represents about 25 percent of the economic value of the state of Illinois, all the way from farmers to exports. We need a place - and a high class place - to showcase our agriculture."

Before he was ag director, Poe spent two decades as a state representative. Back in 2004 he tried to create a not-for-profit Illinois State Fair Foundation. It never got a hearing. He tried again last year. Again, no hearing. Poe says House Speaker Michael Madigan obstructed plans.

Now - with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's support - there's a third attempt underway.

Madigan's spokesman, Steve Brown, says Democratic leaders will reconsider, but:

"What's wrong with just using that time-honored approach of using resources directly? Why do you need a side entity to accomplish this work?"

Governor Rauner says it makes sense to fund the fairgrounds in Springfield and Du Quoin with private money...not just taxpayer dollars.

"That way if we have a foundation private citizens, private businesses can donate and contribute money and equipment and other resources so we can improve the fairgrounds, enhance the fair experience and really use it as a showcase for agriculture and the entire state."

Governor Rauner is asking families to urge their lawmakers and House Speaker Madigan to push ahead with the idea.