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Durbin Calls on Illinois House Republicans to Demand Speaker Boehner Bring Bipartisan Senate Transportation Bill to a Vote

With current bill set to expire on June 30, Speaker Boehner continues to ‘drag his feet’ on legislation that would create or save nearly 68,000 jobs in Illinois

House Republican Conference Committee Members trying to cut funding that could be used for Illinois projects such as the I-74 Bridge, CREATE and Amtrak

WASHINGTON, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–June 14, 2012.  U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the House-Senate Conference Committee on the next transportation bill, yesterday called on Republican Members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation to demand that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) call for a vote on the bipartisan transportation bill which passed the Senate by a vote of 74-22 and would create or save 67,900 jobs in Illinois.

“It is increasingly clear that the only way to complete a multi-year transportation bill is to bring the bipartisan Senate measure up for a vote in the House of Representatives,” said Durbin.  “The current extension for surface transportation programs and funding expires in just 17 days.  Passing a transportation bill before then is critical to the economy of our state.   Unfortunately, the House Republican Speaker is dragging his feet on completing work on the House-Senate transportation conference committee, and instead has publicly called for a six-month extension, the 10th such extension which would all but devastate construction this year.”

Durbin also called on the Illinois House Members to help bring an end to the obstructionism by some House Republicans on the Conference Committee who have singled out funding that is essential to Illinois’ transportation network.  He wrote: “Many House Republicans on the conference committee have called for provisions critical to Illinois to be dropped and have offered no proposals or compromises to make up for the negative job and economic development impact on Illinois of removing these provisions.” 

Specifically, Republican House members of the Conference Committee have targeted several funding formulas and programs that are included in the bipartisan Senate bill that could be used for important job-creating transportation projects throughout Illinois, including:

  • Highway Funding Formulas: The bipartisan Senate Transportation bill would distribute highway formula funds in a way that reflects all funds Illinois has received in previous transportation bills, including funds for important projects like the Mississippi River Bridge in Metro East, the CREATE project and the reconstruction of Wacker Drive;
  • Mass Transit Funding: The bipartisan Senate Transportation bill would increase funding for mass transit in Illinois and allow CTA and Metra to compete for funds to improve their existing systems;
  • Amtrak On-Time Performance: The bipartisan Senate Transportation bill includes passenger rail provisions that will improve Amtrak’s on-time-performance and help Illinois jump start new service to Rockford-Galena and the Quad Cities; and
  • Projects of Regional and National Significance: The bipartisan Senate Transportation bill creates a new competitive grant program for projects of regional and national significance that will give our state and its communities the opportunity to seek additional funds for significant projects like the I-74 bridge, the Elgin-O’Hare Western Bypass, rail relocation in Springfield, and the proposed Illiana highway, among others.

While noting that two Republican House members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation – Representatives Judy Biggert (R-IL) and Bob Dold (R-IL) – have voiced their support for the bipartisan Senate passed transportation bill, Durbin wrote: “Now is the time for you to join them to save thousands of Illinois jobs.  Any further delay will cost us this construction season, valuable time and life-saving improvements to our state’s infrastructure.”

Durbin sent letters to the following members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation: Representatives Randy Hultgren (R-IL), Tim Johnson (R-IL), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Don Manzullo (R-IL), Peter Roskam (R-IL), Bobby Schilling (R-IL), Aaron Schock (R-IL), John Shimkus (R-IL) and Joe Walsh (R-IL).   

[Text of the letter is below]

June 13, 2012

Dear Speaker Boehner:

I know the House is in recess this week, but I want to raise an issue that is time-sensitive and has a direct impact on jobs in our state.

The current extension for surface transportation programs, and funding expires in just 17 days.  Passing a transportation bill before then is critical to the economy of our state.   Speaker Boehner has not responded comprehensively to the bi-partisan Senate bill given to him last week and has publicly called for a six-month extension, the 10th such extension.

It is increasingly clear that the only way to complete a multi-year transportation bill is to bring the bipartisan Senate measure up for a vote in the House of Representatives.  The Senate passed the transportation bill by an overwhelmingly bipartisan 74-22 vote in March.  The Senate bill will help dramatically improve Illinois’ aging transportation network and save or create an estimated 67,900 jobs.   The Senate bill includes several provisions that are particularly helpful to our state, including:

  • distributing highway formula funds in a way that reflects all funding Illinois has received in previous transportation bills, including important projects like the Mississippi River Bridge in Metro East, the CREATE project and the reconstruction of  Wacker Drive;
  • increase funding for mass transit in Illinois and allow CTA and Metra to compete for funds to improve their existing systems;
  • passenger rail provisions that will improve Amtrak’s on-time-performance and help Illinois jump start new service to Rockford-Galena and the Quad Cities; and
  • a new competitive grant program for projects of regional and national significance that will give our state and its communities the opportunity to seek additional funds for significant projects like the I-74 bridge, the Elgin-O’Hare Western Bypass, rail relocation in Springfield, among others.

Many House Republicans on the conference committee have called for provisions critical to Illinois to be dropped and have offered no proposals or compromises to make up for the negative job and economic development impact on Illinois of removing these provisions. 

The most frustrating dynamic is that the House has failed to pass any long-term surface transportation bill.  Simply calling for another short-term fix is irresponsible and harmful to our state, potentially costing Illinois tens of thousands of jobs.

To date, Speaker Boehner has refused to bring the Senate transportation bill to the House floor for a vote and now refuses to even allow the conference committee to consider a bipartisan Senate proposal. 

I thank your colleagues, Bob Dold and Judy Biggert, for speaking up in favor of the bipartisan Senate bill.  Now is the time for you to join them to save thousands of Illinois jobs.  Any further delay will cost us this construction season and valuable time and life-saving improvements to our state’s infrastructure. 

I encourage you to contact Speaker Boehner today and demand that he call the Senate bill before the next House recess.

Sincerely,

Richard J. Durbin

U.S. Senator

Source: durbin.senate.gov

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