Congressional appropriations are back! The Illinois delegation – with the exception of one member – carries federal money
WASHINGTON — Congressional appropriations are back. And Illinois is better for them. There is nothing wrong with a member of the House or Senate transparently requesting federal funds for a local project.
A $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill for 2022 is heading for President Joe Biden to sign after the Senate on Thursday approved legislation with specific projects — known as earmarks — recommended by the members of the House and the Senate. Illinois will receive more than $200 million in federal funds for projects large and small.
Here is just a sampling of specific projects from Chicago-area Illinois House members. I will have more examples below.
Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, both Democrats, secured $1 million for the CTA to improve the State/Lake El station, part of the more than $200 million package of projects the senators secured in the law Project.
The senators, along with several members, asked for money to strengthen police departments in Chicago and other localities, as well as funds in some schools for the Chicago Public Schools Arts Revitalization Initiative.
Democratic Rep. Mike Quigley, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, secured $1 million for improvements to the Lincoln Park Zoo; $1 million to improve access for people with disabilities in Lincoln Park; and $1 million for the Center on Halsted Youth Housing Program which helps LGBTQ+ youth.
Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky got $450,000 for the Evanston YWCA Domestic Violence Shelter and $600,000 for the Evanston/Skokie District 65 Teacher Residency Program.
Democratic Rep. Robin Kelly secured $400,000 for suburban Harvey to fight residential blight and $600,000 for Franciscan Health at Olympia Fields, a behavioral health telemedicine project.
Democratic Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia got $2 million for the Latino United Community Housing Association’s Humboldt Park affordable housing program and $1 million for the Southwest Organizing Project “reclaim southwest Chicago” program.
GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger has secured $660,000 for a Northern Illinois University project investigating weather and climate risks to agriculture.
Democrat Brad Schneider secured $7.7 million for the North Chicago Storm Sewer Project and $3 million to revitalize the Carnegie Library in Waukegan.
FORBIDDEN, NOW BACK
Postings were banned in 2011, after a series of stories about posting abuse, including the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska.
Now the postings are back, bridging the deep partisan divide. Many Republicans and most Democrats rarely agree that they know state and district needs better than federal agency workers.
House members made requests for no more than 10 projects last May.
Members had to document the necessity of each assignment they requested. Not all members have received all of their requests. Members were also required to declare in writing that they had no financial interest in their assignments. All requests were posted on member websites.
REPRESENTING. MARY MILLER: ONLY ILLINOIS MEMBER AVOIDING DISTRICT DOLLARS
The 13 Illinois Democrats have asked for projects. Four of the five Illinois House Republicans have also requested assignments.
Freshman Rep. Mary Miller, R-Ill., is the only member from Illinois not to request an assignment. She joined her Freedom Caucus colleagues in opposing the revival of postings. Once they became available, she didn’t ask for any.
It deprived his district — based in southern Illinois — of a lot of federal money for worthwhile projects.
Obtaining a posting was not conditional on voting in favor of the bill. A member could apply for assignments last May, vote against the legislation days ago, and still get federal project funding.
Miller is locked in a June GOP primary with Rep. Rodney Davis. Davis, among other things, got $1 million for improved security screening at Willard Airport in Champaign and $3 million for the town of Gillespie.
The omnibus legislation was split into two votes. Davis and Miller voted against the portion of the bill with a large domestic spending portion and yes for the defense and aid to Ukraine portion. Both bills contained appropriations.
I asked Durbin about the reappearance of assignments on Friday. Durbin was against ending assignments.
Durbin noted the $575,000 he secured for the Illinois State Police — to purchase, in the event of a terrorist attack, a robot capable of identifying explosive hazards or hazardous materials. “I put the money in there for them, and I will stand up and defend it whenever anyone asks.”
Quigley noted when we spoke on Sunday that postings don’t increase expenses.
“All assignments do is allow individual members to target spending in the district,” he said.
He also pointed out that the push to bring them back was bipartisan. Says Quigley, “Republicans also want to be relevant in their districts.”
SOME MORE ILLINOIS CLUES FROM CHICAGO AREA DEMOCRATS
Here are more assignments. This is far from a complete list.
Durbin/Duckworth: $1 million to the Shedd Aquarium, in partnership with the Chicago Park District, to address the “polluted ecosystem” on the South Arm of the Chicago River; $500,000 to Heartland Alliance’s READI Chicago Violence Reduction Initiative.
Rep. Danny Davis: $621,000 for the Maywood Alternative Policing Program; $696,000 to Rush University Medical Center for information technology training.
Rep. Bill Foster: $3 million for the rehabilitation of the historic site of the Old Joliet Jail by the Joliet Area Historical Museum.
Rep. Lauren Underwood: $350,000 to the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office for a pre-arrest diversion initiative.
Rep. Marie Newman: $500,000 for the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago Summit Community Center.
Representative Sean Casten, $785,000 to the Village of Burr Ridge for improved stormwater management.
Rep. Bobby Rush: $300,000 for the Illinois College of Optometry to treat patients with glaucoma; $20,000 to the Christian Community Health Center to purchase ultrasound imaging technology.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi: $150,000 for Hoffman Estates Village Domestic Violence Project and $225,000 for Wood Dale Public Library.
$52 MILLION FOR RAZING LOOP BUILDINGS THAT CONSERVATIVES WANT TO KEEP
Durbin and Duckworth secured $52 million for the General Services Administration to raze the buildings on South State Street adjacent to the Dirksen Federal Building. The federal government purchased the structures to bolster Dirksen’s security.
Preservation Chicago is fighting to preserve the Century Building designed by Holabird and Roche and the Consumers Building designed by Jenney, Mundie & Jensen.
The group said in a tweet: “GSA: Use Federal Funds to RESTORE, NOT DEMOLISH Century and Consumers Buildings!”