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Yes to Jobs, No To Reckless Spending

 
Southwest News Herald
September 17, 2010
By Congressman Dan Lipinski

As America struggles to emerge from recession, leaving Third District families with no choice but to continue tightening their belts, my top priority remains encouraging job creation while opposing reckless spending.

That is why I have consistently pushed Congress to invest in essential transportation projects that will put people to work and promote long-term economic growth. And that is why I was pleased that last week President Obama finally came around to my position and urged passage of the six-year transportation investment bill that is needed to make critical improvements to our streets, railways, and public transit.

I did not vote for the President's stimulus bill last year because I didn't believe it would result in the jobs the middle class needs, and a long-term transportation bill such as I have called for would not be another stimulus or a new program. Instead, it would be a regularly-scheduled but long-delayed reauthorization of a fully paid-for program that has been limping along with temporary extensions since last October.

Locally, the legislation could help pay for major projects such as the Central Avenue Bypass and the CREATE rail modernization program. The Bypass will relieve congestion on crowded Cicero and Harlem Avenues. CREATE will unclog freight railways to increase local business competitiveness, sharply reduce Metra delays, and prevent backups at a host of highway-rail crossings. No one in the Third District has to be reminded about the headaches we endure as a result of local train traffic. Chicagoland is America's transportation hub. Its airports, railways and highways provide the foundation for countless jobs and much of its economic vitality.

But we cannot take our competitive advantage for granted. If we allow our infrastructure to deteriorate, other regions will waste no time trying to steal jobs away from us.

As the only Northeastern Illinois member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, I am proud to say my record reflects my continual efforts to boost local transportation projects, which create or support an estimated 35,000 jobs for every $1 billion invested.

Three years ago, I brought the Highways & Transit Subcommittee to Chicago for the very first hearing on reauthorizing the transportation bill. In June 2009, I helped pass a transportation bill out of the Subcommittee, and was frustrated when Congress and the President failed to support the bill. Had that bill been passed and signed into law, hundreds of thousands of currently unemployed Americans — perhaps even more than a million — would be working today.

In January of this year I called on Congress to put aside the huge, fatally-flawed health care bill, and focus on job creation while working on incremental health care reforms that could earn broad support. Now, President Obama is finally talking about the need for transportation investments that create jobs. While I welcome his support, the delay, unfortunately, has left Congress with little time to reach agreement on major legislation.

That, however, is no excuse for inaction. Across the Third District, men and women who lost their jobs through no fault of their own are looking for work so they can feed their families, pay their mortgage or their rent, and stay healthy. Small business owners are searching for customers so they can keep the lights on and continue paying their employees.

These hard-working people don't want a handout.

They want to earn a living by putting their talents and experience to work. A new transportation bill would help them and our economy as a whole by quickly creating the jobs we so desperately need, while making improvements that will save all of us time and frustration as we travel to work, school, church or shopping.

In the days and weeks ahead, I will be pressing the President and congressional leadership to finally take action on this critical legislation. Americans need jobs, and that must be our top priority.