IL: Durbin Says Can't Guarantee Rail Jobs Will Go to Local Workers

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin would like to see local workers involved in improvements leading to high-speed rail lines, and he'd like higher-than-anticipated speeds.

However, he told reporters in Springfield Friday, he's not sure either can be guaranteed.

A group called Faith Coalition for the Common Good recently staged a news conference at the Springfield Amtrak station, urging that local jobs and job-training money go with anticipated rail improvements.

"Many times we're dealing with the lowest-bid situation when we have federal contracts," Durbin said at a news conference on another subject at Trout Lily Cafe, 218 S. Sixth St.

"I wish every project that I could bring back to Illinois employed people in Illinois," he said. "We do our best to encourage contractors to hire locally, and I will continue to do that."

Durbin, D-Ill., was also asked about varying estimates of how fast trains would go in Illinois. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said in Springfield Thursday that within five years, passenger trains would travel 160 mph between Chicago and St. Louis and trips between those two cities would take a little more than two hours.

State applications for the work estimate the eventual trip at four hours, with speeds not exceeding 110 mph.

"I don't know where Ray came up with that, but I sure want to know," Durbin said.

Meanwhile, Durbin said he doesn't think that CME Group, which owns the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board of Trade, will move out of Illinois, despite an announcement from the company that it is considering relocation. Illinois raised its corporate tax rate from 4.8 percent to 7 percent in January, along with a hike in the individual rate from 3 percent to 5 percent. The increases are scheduled to be temporary.

Durbin said he understands why some businesses would look for lower-tax states, but he also thinks the General Assembly and Gov. Pat Quinn were in a "desperate situation" when the increases were passed late last year.

"So far, no major businesses have left," he said. "I've called a few of them to encourage them to stay."

He said that he hasn't called CME officials, because the threat of departure came only late this week, but he doesn't think the operation will move.

"They are pretty well invested in the Chicago area," Durbin said.

He also said he doesn't know how U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., who admitted sending racy photos to several women, can stay in the House.

"Woodrow Wilson once said, 'You don't have to murder anyone who's already committing suicide,'" Durbin said. "I cannot imagine how he can stay in office under these circumstances. I feel very badly for his wife, whom I know."

"The overwhelming majority of members of Congress of both political parties are honest, sensible people," Durbin added. "A handful of folks can give either the media or business or religion or politics a bad name."

Bernard Schoenburg can be reached at 788-1540.

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