House vote cuts funds for Q-C Amtrak line, Moline station

Originally Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2011, 12:51 pm
Last Updated: Feb. 21, 2011, 11:20 pm
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By Dawn Neuses

MOLINE -- A $230 million federal grant to Iowa and Illinois to build an Amtrak line from Chicago to Iowa City was among $60 billion in current-year federal spending the House of Representatives voted to cut in a 4:30 a.m. vote Saturday.

Gone, too, would be a $10 million grant awarded to Moline for the Amtrak station on which the city already has spent $1.2 million.

There is little chance the House version of the bill to fund the federal government from March 4 to Sept. 30 will get past the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats. Republicans control the House and passed their proposed spending bill without any Democrat support.

Unless the House and Senate can agree on a bill by March 4, the federal government would be shut down except for emergency needs.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., during an appearance in Moline Monday, said the House bill is a "job killer."

"This Republican budget is going to move us toward the past instead of moving us toward the future," he said. "If this turns out to be a partisan squabble, this money could be in doubt," Sen. Durbin said.

It is estimated Amtrak could spark 700 construction jobs and 1,000 private and public sector jobs in the Quad-Cities, Sen. Durbin said.

"I've worked hard, hard for four years with you to get this money for this area, to create jobs and move forward. We are not giving up," he said.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Colona, was among those supporting the cuts. He was not available for a phone interview Monday, but agreed through his assistant,Jon Schweppe, to answer questions by e-mail.

Rep. Schilling did not directly answer any of the questions e-mailed him.

Instead, he responded in general terms.

"The people of the 17th District did not elect me to join the culture of out-of-control spending. They did not elect me to just keep to the status quo. I was elected to tackle the huge budget problems our country is facing, and I take that responsibility seriously," Rep. Schilling wrote.

"I reviewed the pros and cons of every amendment I voted on, and I stand by my decisions. I believe we made major strides last week toward addressing our nation's debt problem. While there is still much to do, I believe this was a modest, yet significant step in the right direction," he added.

Sen. Durbin agreed the U.S. does face a challenge with our deficit but said President Obama's on the right track with an attempt to grow the economy by creating good paying jobs, becoming more competitive, investing in things that will pay off for the next generation and cutting waste and duplication.

"You don't cut education. You don't cut innovation. You don't cut infrastructure," Sen. Durbin said.

Sen. Durbinencouraged everyone to contact House and Senate members to stress the importance of the funding to the future of the Quad-Cities.

Rory Washburn,executive director of the Tri-City Building Trades Council, said the decision, if it stands, is a setback to the entire community. He plans to contact Rep. Schilling to understand his decision and stress jobs are what the community needs.

"When the building trades are working, our communities are growing. When our communities are growing, the Quad-Cities is a better place to be," he said.

Other cuts included in the House bill would eliminate federal family planning money and money for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The bill specifically named Planned Parenthood as ineligible for any federal funding whatsoever, saidJill June, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.

The health care organization has 20 clinics in Iowa. It provides abortions, but 98 percent of the services are prevention-based, such as immunizations, birth control, pap smears and breast exams. Most of its clients don't have, or can't afford to pay for, health insurance, Ms. June said.

Rick Best, general manager of WQPT Quad Cities PBS, said federal funds represent 40 percent of its budget. He said the move by House Republicans is the biggest threat to public broadcasting he's ever seen.

"If it is to remain as it is, the situation could arise not only for WQPT but a lot of public broadcasting radio and television stations could not be able to exist," Mr. Best said.

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