A Joint Service of Bradley University and Illinois State University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

LaHood: Bipartisan Efforts Should Focus On 'Traditional,' Not 'Social' Infrastructure Bill

Tim Shelley

Congressman Darin LaHood says he thinks a bipartisan infrastructure bill can still happen this year, but it needs to focus on so-called traditional infrastructure to gain the support of him and other Republicans.

LaHood speaks with WCBU's Tim Shelley.

DARIN LAHOOD: Well, I remain optimistic, Tim. I think the fact that the Senate has come up with it appears like a bipartisan infrastructure plan is positive news. The fact that there's been negotiations going on for almost seven weeks now. And what I like is that we are defining infrastructure in the traditional way, roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, rail systems.

When I drive around Peoria, I see the condition of the roads. And we can't keep patching and repairing roads, we have to have new roads, new highways, new bridges, and that costs money. And so since I got elected to Congress, almost six years ago, Tim, I have talked about the need for infrastructure, but it has to be done the right way. And from what I've seen on the bipartisan bill that's been put together, it has a lot of promise, and I remain optimistic that we can get to a final bill and get it to President Biden's desk.

TIM SHELLEY: So when we talk about doing it the right way. Tell me a little bit about, you know, what you hope this bipartisan effort brings to the table here?

DARIN LAHOOD: Yeah, well, first of all, I think it's defining infrastructure, the way that, you know, I think most people think of infrastructure, again, roads and bridges, and locks and dams, rural broadband, but also our airports and rail systems.

What is not infrastructure, in my view is public housing or health care or child care. You know, that's been described as kind of a social infrastructure bill. That's not what I think of when I think about infrastructure.

So the Senate bill definitely takes the more traditional definition. And that's a positive thing. That's what I think most of my district is looking for.

Secondly, is how do you pay for it, you know, without raising taxes, and looking at ways to fund that. So the senate bill uses a lot of (the) leftover COVID bill (funding), which is a positive thing. It also looks at user fees. If you use the airport, you're going to pay a fee. If you use a rail system, you're going to pay a fee, looks at public private partnerships, and looks at other ways to fund infrastructure. And the bill is about a trillion dollars.

I want to read the details on it. But it doesn't raise exorbitant taxes. If you look at the original Biden plan, Tim, it was going to raise corporate taxes and taxes on small businesses and working families raising the capital gains tax. This new bill that is the bipartisan bill does not do that. And so for me, those two things are positive to finding infrastructure in the traditional way. And secondly, figuring out how you pay for it in a way that doesn't sock it to taxpayers.

TIM SHELLEY: Talking about some of those, you know, member-designated projects and community projects. I know you had submitted a list of quite a few from across your district here, but I don't know, you want to highlight the status of maybe a couple of the other ones in Peoria that are maybe moving forward here?

Yeah, happy to do that, you know, in Peoria Heights, of course, which has really been thriving, you know, in terms of their business district. And so we submitted a project there that's going to help with the traffic flow, and help the economic development. And what I like about that project is, it's going to help to create economic growth. We've already seen Peoria Heights is really a hotbed of activity. And as they continue to look at a new hotel, new restaurants, new businesses, the money that we would invest for this project that's going to help traffic flow along there, and the sidewalks and bike paths there is going to help create a better atmosphere. I look at the investment of somebody like Kim Blickenstaff and what he's making. This will spur economic activity, more jobs, more growth. So that's a project that I was happy to be a part of.

Secondarily, Pioneer Park, as we continue to work with the city of Peoria on the opportunities for Pioneer Park. You know, the potential is vast as we look at moving that over Route 6 eventually, but you know, as we look at potentially a Tech Park out there, and other opportunities for traffic flow, we submitted a project there that we think makes a lot of sense.

And then lastly, in Chillicothe, the viaduct as you go north through Route 29, has really been a safety issue for a long, long time. Semis going through, there are school buses going through there. So we were proud to submit about a $5 million grant opportunity there to help with the road construction on safety. Also on traffic flow, and again, economic opportunities for the Chillicothe area.

Note: This interview was condensed for clarity.

Community support is the greatest funding source for WCBU. Donations from listeners and readers means local news is available to everyone as a public service. Join the village that powers public media with your contribution.

Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.