Cost at center of battle for control of Lincoln Library

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Two officials fighting for control of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum differed Thursday on how much it costs to operate.

The library's director told the Senate Appropriations Committee that the institution can operate independently, as Gov. Bruce Rauner proposes, on about $15 million.

That figure was contested by the board chairwoman of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, which under the Republican governor's spending plan not only would lose control of the 10-year-old library and museum but also close the agency itself.

The Senate's budget writers heard from the two sides as they consider the impact of Rauner's plan to close the preservation agency — which also oversees treasured state historic sites — and shift its functions into the tourist-minded Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

That would leave the library and museum as a stand-alone agency, something ALPLM director Eileen Mackevich has pushed for a year, with support from Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan. She has argued that the institution would run more efficiently if it could chart its own course.

"We can be a frugal, independent stand-alone without any additional cost to the state coffers," Mackevich said Thursday.

But preservation agency board chairwoman Sunny Fischer objected, saying Mackevich wasn't counting up to $2 million the agency provides for the library and museum's lawyers, accountants and other services.

Fischer said the museum and library benefited from the work and institutional knowledge that comes from the historic preservation agency. When Mackevich counted among its successes expanded educational programs and a push to make the library more of a research facility, Fischer countered that they occurred while under the agency's oversight.

Madigan's separation proposal won overwhelming House approval last May, but didn't advance in the Senate. A measure in the House this year would merge Madigan's idea to create the stand-alone library with Rauner's plan for the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to become a public-private partnership.

Attendance at the Lincoln library in 2014 was 289,000, historic preservation agency spokesman Chris Wills said. That's a 10 percent drop from 2013 and the first time attendance dropped below the 300,000 mark. However, Wills said the 2014 number was about 60,000 more than what planners a decade ago projected would visit the site in its 10th year.



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