IL congressional leaders praise possible changes to House transportation bill

February 24, 2012

Michell Eloy

Illinois Congressional members say they're pleased with some possible changes to mass transit funding included in much-debated Republican-backed House transportation bill.

Several Illinois Republican and Democrats had the same issue with the bill that's currently being debated in the House - the changes it made to mass transit. Namely, they did not support a proposal to end a long-standing measure guaranteeing mass transit programs a 20 percent share of the federal fuel tax. Without the guaranteed funding, Illinois lawmakers said more than $400 million in state mass transit funding would be jeapordized.

House GOP leaders now say they may reinstate the fuel tax guarantee, something Democrat Rep. Dan Lipinski praised on Friday.

"It was clear that the Republicans did not have enough votes to pass this bill if they did not make that change," said Lipinski, who called the possible changes a "victory" for the Chicago area.

Republican Rep. Judy Biggert said she also supports the plan to keep mass transit funding coupled with the fuel tax.

However, she said she takes issue with a different proposed change, the plan to shorten the time Congress has until it needs to take up another transportation bill from five years to two.

"That's not long enough, and that is of concern," said Biggert.

The bill is still in committee, and none of the proposed changes are final.

Both representatives say the House could vote on the bill in the next few weeks