Durbin: Bill to Fund Departments of Agriculture, Transportation, Justice, Others Protects Several Illinois Priorities

[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today announced that the Senate has approved a bill to fund several federal agencies for the 2012 fiscal year that includes funding that will enhance programs and create jobs in Illinois.  Many of these priorities were included in President Obama’s 2012 Budget and supported by Durbin. 


High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail


On September 21, Durbin – a Co-Chair and founding member of the Bi-Cameral High- Speed & Intercity Passenger Rail Caucus – joined three other Senators in successfully offering an amendment to the 2011 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bill that would restore $100 million in funding for High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail grants.  As rail travel continues to grow in popularity as an alternative to other forms of transportation, this investment will create jobs by putting unemployed construction workers and private companies back to work upgrading our transportation infrastructure without adding one penny to America’s debt.  Funding for the program was zeroed out in the original bill.


“High speed rail funding is more than just creating short-term construction jobs.  Every dollar we spend on rail produces $3 in economic output,” said Durbin. “Construction crews in Illinois are working right now to upgrade infrastructure along the Chicago-to-St. Louis route thanks to a $1.1 billion Recovery Act investment.  Today’s bill continues Congress’ long-standing commitment to high speed rail and will allow more communities in Illinois to benefit from faster, more reliable passenger rail service.” 


The 2012 Appropriations Bill for Transportation, Housing and Urban Development – Agriculture – Commerce, Justice and Science includes funding for the following Illinois priorities:


Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations


Department of Transportation


  • TIGER Grant Program:  $550 million in funding for the Transportation Infrastructure Grants and Economic Reinvestment (TIGER) grant program allows local communities to apply directly to the DOT for funding of nationally significant transportation projects.   This new program is especially helpful to communities engaged in multimodal projects that improve connections to different transportation networks.  Several projects have been funded under the TIGER grant program in Illinois including: The Normal Multimodal Transportation Center, the Peoria Warehouse District, the CREATE project and the Tri-City Port in Madison County Illinois. 


  • High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Program: $100 million in funding for the High Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Program will aims to help build an efficient, high-speed and emerging high speed passenger rail network connecting major population centers 100 to 600 miles apart.  In the short-term, the program aims to aid economic recovery efforts and lay the foundation for this high-speed passenger rail network through targeted investments.  The core of the Midwest rail network lies in Illinois, with the Chicago to St. Louis route as the high-speed backbone of the network.  New regional routes to the Quad Cities and Rockford will feed into the high speed routes originating in Chicago and terminating in Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis and Madison/Minneapolis.  


  • Highway Investments: $41.1 billion in funding for the Federal Highway program. This funding keeps the highway program at last year’s level when Illinois received a total investment of $1.475 billion in federal aid highway dollars.  Federal funding comprises 57% of the funds included in the Illinois Department of Transportation’s multi-year highway improvement program.  A similar bill in the House reduces funding for highway investments by 33%.


  • Transit Investments: $8.36 billion, level funding for formula funded accounts.  Illinois received over $550 million in federal transit funds last year.  A similar bill in the House reduces funding for mass transit by roughly 33%.  A cut of this size could severely impact upgrading Chicago’s aging mass transit infrastructure. 


  • Airport Investments: $3.5 billion in funding for capital investments grants at airports around the country.  Federal aid funding supports airport improvement projects around the state of Illinois including the O’Hare Modernization Program at O’Hare International Airport, noise mitigation measures at Midway International Airport, runway improvements at Chicago / Rockford International Airport and Quad City International Airport and safety improvements at Peoria International Airport.


  • Transit Energy Efficiency Grants: $25 million in funding for grants to help transit agencies make cutting-edge and innovative capital investments that will reduce the energy consumption or greenhouse gas emissions.  In October, Metra received a $5.2 million grant through this program to help reduce emissions and improve air quality along three routes.


Department of Housing and Urban Development


  • Fair Housing Initiatives Program: $35 million for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program which aims to assist people who believe they have been victims of housing discrimination.  In 2011, five organizations in Illinois received over $1.4 million to assist individuals and families facing housing discrimination.  South Suburban Housing Center has received funding through this program for the last two years and has use this funding to conduct fair housing enforcement activities and foreclosure prevention. 


  • Maturing Mortgages:  $10 million in funding to provide tenant protection assistance to residents residing in low vacancy areas and who may have to pay rents greater than 30% of household income because of maturing mortgages, the expiration of rental assistance or the expiration of affordability restriction.  In 2012, the mortgages of fifteen properties in Illinois will mature, including mortgages on properties in Chicago, Batavia, Crystal Lake, DeKalb, and Peoria.  Funding will provide assistance to tenants that see a significant increase in their rent due to maturing mortgages.    


  • Sustainable Communities Initiative: $90 million in funding for a joint initiative between the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency.  The Community Development Fund provides grants for integrated housing and transportation planning efforts on both the regional and local level.  The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning was recently awarded a $4.25 million grant through this program.


  • Choice Neighborhoods: $120 million in funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative which promotes a comprehensive approach to transforming distressed areas of concentrated poverty into viable and sustainable mixed-income neighborhoods.  The program links housing improvements with a wide variety of public services and neighborhood improvements to create opportunity.  Earlier this year, the city of Chicago received $30.5 million to redevelop the distressed housing at Grove Parc Plaza and revitalize the Woodlawn neighborhood on the city's south side. 


Agricultural Appropriations


  • Agricultural Research Activities: $709.825 million in funding to provide competitive grants to support critical research priorities addressing issues of national, regional and multi-state importance to the safety, sustainability, and quality of American agriculture.  Special emphasis is placed in areas such as human nutrition and obesity reduction, food safety, sustainable bioenergy, global food security, and climate change. 


  • Animal Welfare: $27.087 million in funding to implement and enforce provisions of the Animal Welfare Act.  An audit performed by the Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General in May 2010 identified serious shortcomings in the ability of the Department’s Animal Care Unit to effectively address problematic dog dealers and ensure their compliance with minimum humane care standards.  Earlier this year, Durbin introduced the Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act, a bill which would require all breeders that sell more than 50 dogs a year to be licensed and to undergo inspections to ensure dogs are receiving proper care.


  • Conservation Activities: $828.159 million in funding to support the Conservation Operations programs of the Natural Resources Conservation Service which is critical in nationwide efforts to ensuring the health and viability of agriculture and rural America through land conservation activities and improving wildlife habitat, wetland protection, and water quality.  Illinois currently has 1,253,700 acres of wetlands and has nearly one million acres in the Conservation Reserve Program.


  • Tree & Wood Pest Control: $58.62 million in funding for Tree and Wood Pest Control a portion of which can be used to help identify and contain Emerald Ash Borer infestations, increase public awareness of the threat posed by the invasive species.  It is in the best interest of the Department to provide the 15 states – including Illinois – battling emerald ash borer with assistance to track and manage infestations on quarantine borders.  


Commerce, Justice and Science


Department of Commerce


  • Competitive education grants, ocean education: $2.5 million in funding for a competitive educational grant program to increase environmental and ocean literacy, specifically Great Lakes and ocean education programs at aquariums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago has received funding in the past through this program for an ongoing initiative that educates visitors about the Great Lakes and encourages better stewardship of the marine environment.  The Great Lakes are the largest single source of fresh surface water in the world holding 90 percent of America’s fresh surface water and 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water.  Approximately 42 million people rely on the Great Lakes for clean, safe water.


Department of Justice


  • Community-Based Violence Prevention Initiatives: $8 million in funding to provide community-based violence prevention strategies which focus on street-level outreach, conflict mediation, and the changing of community norms to reduce violence.  In Illinois, organizations like Chicago’s Ceasefire are eligible for this funding.


  • Prosecutor and Public Defender Student Loan Repayment: $5 million in funding to provide student loan repayment assistance for state and local prosecutors and public defenders through the John R. Justice grant program which was created by legislation – The John R. Justice Prosecutors and Defenders Incentive Act – that Durbin first introduced in 2003 and included in the Higher Education Opportunity Act that became law in 2008.  In 2010, Illinois received $365,309 through this program to help prosecutor and public defender offices retain and attract talented attorneys.


National Science Foundation


  • Basic science research: $6.698 billion in funding to fund basic science research in order to promote innovation, ensure America’s competitiveness in the global economy and help train the future scientific and technical workforce.  Funding also allows for competitive grants for fundamental research and education projects across the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.  Illinois is home to two of the nation’s premier research laboratories: Argonne National Laboratory which employs roughly 2,900 people, including about 1,000 scientists and engineers and Fermilab which employs roughly 1,900 people including about 900 physicists, engineers and computer professionals.