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Pritzker budget has unpleasant surprise for U of I’s Discovery Partners Institute

Wednesday, Mar 20, 2019

* Buried in the governor’s budget proposal was this little nugget


The proposed fiscal year 2020 budget includes a reappropriation of $500 million in spending authority to provide a state match for private donations from individuals, corporations and other entities. The state matching funds will only be released if the corresponding private donations are secured.

* Greg Hinz

The future of a huge research center in the South Loop once again is in grave doubt after the Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration added what appears to be onerous new conditions to state funding for the University of Illinois’ Discovery Partners Institute.

The new governor in January told Crain’s he wanted the research facility to fly even though it originally was proposed by the man he unseated, Bruce Rauner. Pritzker said the university would have to line up private funds rather than merely depending on the $500 million in state cash that Rauner allotted, but suggested that was doable. […]

[Pritzker’s] budget reappropriates the $500 million that was budgeted last year, but describes it not as a grant but a state match for private donations from individuals, corporations or other entities. The budget language adds that “state matching funds will only be released if the corresponding private donations are secured.” […]

But other administration officials go farther, saying that $500 million in private capital will have to be secured before the state considers releasing any its funds. Said one insider, “After the $500 million in private funds have been raised, there would be structured draws against the state’s $500 million, tied to important project milestones and ongoing planning.”


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Mar 20, 19 @ 10:24 am:

    They should focus on their core functions rather than shiny new objects.

    Another good Pritzker move. Down with 1.4% pet projects.

  2. - njt - Wednesday, Mar 20, 19 @ 10:29 am:

    Hopefully UIUC and UC can get back to focusing on Hyde Park projects.

  3. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Mar 20, 19 @ 10:32 am:

    I always thought Rauner’s fake $500 million was part of Rahm’s ploy to lure Amazon. Does anyone really think the 79 will even break ground in the next decade? This was never a well conceived idea, so Pritzker’s move is the prudent one. If, and it’s a gigantic IF, private money magically appears, the spend the state money. Until then, forget it.

    Discovery Partners died when Amazon chose DC/NYC. Bury it now before the corpse starts to stink.

  4. - Big Joe - Wednesday, Mar 20, 19 @ 10:33 am:

    Good move, JB.

  5. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Mar 20, 19 @ 10:33 am:

    78. Close.

  6. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Mar 20, 19 @ 10:34 am:

    –The future of a huge research center in the South Loop once again is in grave doubt …–

    What “huge research center in the South Loop?” This thing hasn’t progressed beyond the laptop pretty-picture phase.

    Private capital is critical. Otherwise, what’s the point?

    There are supposedly plans for new research facilities at Urbana, UIC, Springfield and NIU. Are those moving along, at all?

  7. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Mar 20, 19 @ 10:40 am:

    Always felt…

    This was a “look at this” campaign thingy that only had legs if Rauner won.

    Calling the bluff, for lack of a better term, for the investment money upfront, that’s how you slowly take it down… from the concept phase it sits.

  8. - Last Bull Moose - Wednesday, Mar 20, 19 @ 10:47 am:

    Is JB going to make calls to raise money? Since he gave $5 million to support Diana Rauner ‘s charity, maybe Bruce could chip in here.

  9. - illini - Wednesday, Mar 20, 19 @ 10:51 am:

    UIUC has always been considered a world class research institute as is the University of Chicago and Northwestern. The cooperation between these institutions almost seemed too good to be true. But the possibilities and the prospects of elevating this state to an even higher level was exciting.

    Private investment was always a part of the plan, but now it seems to be a condition of any state funding. Didn’t Rauner tell us that he had the private investors lined up?

    Hopefully, this is only a delay in implementing and starting a cooperative program that would have promoted this state to even greater prominence in scientific research.

  10. - Perrid - Wednesday, Mar 20, 19 @ 10:54 am:

    Seems fiscally responsible, but also casts the whole project in doubt. This will probably make it harder to get private donations. I’m pretty ambivalent about it.

  11. - Been There - Wednesday, Mar 20, 19 @ 11:16 am:

    ===to provide a state match for private donations from individuals, corporations and other entities===
    I think the key word here is donations. It doesn’t say investment. Investments you hopefully get a return on. Donations you are only supposed to expect a thank you. I think there should be private money going in before the state lays out a half a billion and support the concept but I think making it donations kills it.

  12. - Cool Papa Bell - Wednesday, Mar 20, 19 @ 11:24 am:

    The U of I endowment is $3.6 billion. Seems well within their ability to raise $500 million if they really wanted this to work in Chicago. Glad for now state money won’t be dedicated to this project.

  13. - Rural Stuff - Wednesday, Mar 20, 19 @ 11:29 am:

    Good. It was a half thought out proposal that neither Rauner officials or UIUC staff could adequately explain. Let’s get the basics of higher ed in Illinois fixed, then move on to the grand ideas.

  14. - Anon221 - Wednesday, Mar 20, 19 @ 11:33 am:

    From Greg’s article linked back to another article from last year…

    Prior to the election and ouster of Rauner, UIC was planning to use 5 million of this money for construction outside of the DPI Loop area. IMO that shouldn’t even have been a thought by UIC to use DPI monies to leverage work done outside of the planned DPI area. Pritzker’s plan to tie the donations and state money together should help eliminate these types of shenanigans.

    “…new five-story “drug discovery and innovation pavilion,” with 110,000 square feet of space, and another five-story new “computing design, research and learning center,” with about 145,000 square feet, to cost about $200 million, with less than half of that cost covered by the money allocated to DPI. Best case scenario, the new buildings would be completed by the summer of 2020, he said. The buildings will be located on the existing UIC campus and not on the South Loop site that’s currently envisioned for the DPI.”

  15. - illini - Wednesday, Mar 20, 19 @ 11:34 am:

    A quick google search showed that Illinois has 17 Billionaires, who as a group are worth almost $54 Billion.

    Would it not be great for some of them to have their names on a building or a research lab?

  16. - Ok - Wednesday, Mar 20, 19 @ 11:59 am:

    $500 million in donations for a major university, where you have a match commitment already, is actually not that much.

    A $1 billion brand new campus in a hot tech city where a ton of your alumni live? Where the state is committed to matching every contribution you make?

    That’s an easy fundraising job.

    And if the need is only $500 million total, then it is a $250 million fundraising job.

    For reference, the University of Chicago’s last big fundraising campaign raised $5 BILLION.

  17. - Our Joe - Wednesday, Mar 20, 19 @ 12:47 pm:

    Right move on this by JB. There was no “there there” from the get-go, just the thinnest of planning. Killeen dived in headfirst with Rauner for this (or vice versa maybe) and U of I kidded themselves on how the politics of this would play out once Bruce lost the election. (Or even worse, they naively figured he had a chance to win.) This is being handled the better way now. If the $500m specifically for project investment can be gotten then I can make an argument that it makes sense for the U and the state. In the meantime, there are plenty of areas To spend money on right now in higher education that are a better investment with a quicker payback.

  18. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Mar 20, 19 @ 12:52 pm:

    Wordslinger -

  19. - Morningstar - Wednesday, Mar 20, 19 @ 12:56 pm:

    Meanwhile, EIU’s Life Science building has been on a deferred maintenance list for more than 20 years. Share the joy.

  20. - Last Bull Moose - Wednesday, Mar 20, 19 @ 1:12 pm:

    Does this provide a $500 million cushion in the budget?

  21. - Old Illini - Wednesday, Mar 20, 19 @ 2:28 pm:

    This $500 million requirement is not excessive or unusual. The new Carle School of Medicine in Urbana has already raised $1.5 billion, and thinks it can raise another $1 billion.
    What is unclear to me is how much the UIUC faculty will want to participate in a a research program 120 miles away. That’s a long commute for them and their graduate students.

  22. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Mar 20, 19 @ 11:36 pm:

    Illinois can’t afford any new nice things, so probably a good call.

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