Durbin Praises Agreement to Preserve $119 Million in Highway Funding for Illinois

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) said today that he is “very pleased” that an agreement was reached between House and Senate negotiators over a proposal to revise federal highway formula funding. The original proposal would have caused 13 states and the District of Columbia to lose more than $515 million in total highway funding, including a $119-million reduction in funding for Illinois.

“The compromise agreed to today is a win for all involved – Illinois and the other affected states will not have money taken out of their highway funding allocations, construction projects that are currently underway will not be halted, and hundreds of construction and other highway-related jobs will be saved,” said Durbin. “A decision on permanent changes to highway funding formulas will not be made until next year. That should give everyone time to work out a fair and reasonable solution for all involved.”

According to Durbin, the compromise would allow Illinois and other impacted states to keep all previously committed highway funds and would ensure that no permanent changes to highway funding formulas would take effect until next year. It would also provide additional money to other states for additional highway projects through the Highway Trust Fund.

Twice this year, Durbin led an effort in the Senate to reject attempts to change federal highway funding formulas in unrelated legislation. Last week, Congressman Jim Oberstar (D-MN) tried for a third time to attach this provision to another unrelated bill – this time a bill designed to extend unemployment benefits and provide middle class tax relief.

Over the last week, a growing number of House members began stating their opposition to the highway formula provision.  Several members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation signaled their intention to oppose legislation containing this provision in the House. In particular, Durbin worked with Congressman Jerry Costello (D-IL) to arrive at a final compromise.  Additionally, Durbin and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) led an effort of 16 senators to signal their displeasure with the serious implications this proposal would have on their states.

Illinois is already considered a donor state – for every dollar sent to Washington, only ninety-three cents comes back to Illinois; seven cents goes to support transportation projects in other states.  According to the Chicago Metropolitan Planning Agency, a “$119 million reduction would significantly undermine our state’s and region’s ability to fund critical transportation infrastructure improvements for the movement of people and goods throughout Illinois and metropolitan Chicago.”