ROADS/BRIDGES: Illinois senator wants highway earmarks to return

Durbin believes project favorites are the only way Congress will pass long-term highway bill

News October 02, 2014
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Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin wants Congress to start using a bad word again—earmarks.
Speaking with the editorial board of Arlington Heights-based newspaper the Daily Herald, Durbin said the only way Congress will pass a long-term highway bill is to allow lawmakers to earmark projects.
“[The lack of earmarks] created a situation where you can’t get transportation bills passed, you can’t get highways funded,” Durbin told the board.
The senator would like to see a new and improved earmark system, one that would require lawmakers to become more transparent. Members of Congress would have to produce letters of support for a certain project and must be upfront with the public as to what action they wanted to take. Durbin estimated he generated $2.56 billion in highway earmarks during his career, and during the meeting with the Daily Herald he would not endorse raising or indexing the gas tax or some other user fee. Tolls, he said, were a last resort.
Durbin’s opponent, Illinois Sen. Jim Oberweis, opposes the use of earmarks. A spokesman for Oberweis, Dan Curry, said a responsible funding flow needed to be created to maintain the highway system in the U.S.

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