LaHood Talks Transportation, Agriculture, and State Budget
Congressman Darin LaHood (R-IL) has been in office a bit more than six months. LaHood represents the 18th District, has not missed a vote yet, and said he comes home every weekend.
“I have tried to listen and learn as much as I can these first six months," LaHood said. "Dive into my committees and try to do the best job that I can.”
LaHood said he has supported some major legislation passed by Congress during his short tenure, including education reform that moves away from 'No Child Left Behind' and the largest federal transportation bill in a decade.
LaHood plans to be involved with the implementation of the transportation bill, which will provide Illinois with a few billion dollars over the next five years for road work.
A major transportation project in west central Illinois is the Macomb Bypass, which is part of the Chicago-Kansas City expressway. So far, funding has been secured for two lanes (of what was originally conceived as a four lane bypass), and construction of those two lanes should be complete by early next year. LaHood said he wants some of the Illinois' share of transportation funding to support that project.
"Transportation is the backbone of this district," LaHood said. "It helps our businesses, it helps our agriculture, it helps our people travel around and also looking at the safety aspect of it. So, when I think about Macomb, I think about [the bypass] and I also think about Amtrak funding."
The Trans Pacific Partnership is another piece of federal legislation LaHood said will benefit this region. LaHood said he has organized an agriculture advisory committee comprised of about 40 farmers from across the region and they tell him to open up U-S trade on the world market including Cuba.
"In general, trade is good for this district, whether you are producing Caterpillar tractors or John Deere tractors or more commodities being sold around the world. 95% of the world market is outside of the United States," LaHood said.
On the home front, Illinois is in its 9th month without a state budget. LaHood, who served as a state senator for four years before being elected to Congress, said he finds the situation upsetting and frustrating. He said collateral damage is being done to social service agencies and universities.
"I think the governor and the leaders need to be locked into the Capitol or locked into the Governor's Mansion and not come out until they solve it. I think we owe that to the tax payers, I think we owe it to the constituents that they get in a room and not come out until they solve it," LaHood said.
LaHood said he disagreed with court decisions to issue mandates requiring that state workers still be paid during the budget impasse. “If state workers weren’t getting paid this would have been solved a long time ago.”
In the meantime, LaHood said the budget stalemate is hemorrhaging jobs, opportunity, and people out of the state and ruining Illinois’ reputation.
LaHood describes his in time in Washington D.C. so far as a whirlwind. The week he was sworn in, there was a major shakeup when Former House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) resigned. LaHood said he supports the new Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).
"I’m excited about Paul Ryan being our new speaker and me being brand new. I think Paul represents the future of the party, he has what I call common sense Midwestern values," LaHood said.
As for the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court left by the death of Antonin Scalia, LaHood said he stands with the decision by Senate Republicans to not hold confirmation hearings on President Obama's nominee and to wait until after the presidential election.
LaHood made his comments during a media interview prior to attending to the annual Lincoln Day Dinner hosted by the McDonough County Republican Party.
LaHood said campaigning has not stopped since he decided a year ago to run to fill a vacant congressional seat left by fellow Republican Aaron Schock, who resigned in disgrace. LaHood won a special election last fall to replace Schock.
No one ran against LaHood in the Illinois primary this year and no one ran for the Democratic nomination for the congressional seat, though there is still time for Democrats to slate a candidate.