Statement of Doug Whitley, President,
Illinois Chamber of Commerce
Good Morning. Thank you, Chairman Inhofe and Senator Fitzgerald (and Senator Durbin) for giving us the opportunity to address this important issue today. My name is Doug Whitley, and I am the president of the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce. However, I am speaking to you today on behalf of more than 30 statewide and regional business and labor organizations from throughout Illinois who are members of the Transportation for Illinois Coalition.
TFIC is a broadly based group of interests that supports the need for additional funding for all forms of transportation in Illinois, including transit and rail as well as highway funding. However, my emphasis this morning will be on highways, as that is the focus of your committee’s responsibility.
Transportation is a vital industry in Illinois and plays a key role in determining the health of our economy. The transportation industry
· contributes to efficient manufacturing operations by allowing for just-in-time supply deliveries
· contributes one in six jobs to the state’s workforce, and
· contributes 5.3 percent of the state’s gross product
In these tough economic times, transportation funding increases can go a long way toward boosting the state’s economy. And I think it’s important to underscore that public works is a significant part of what government does.
Public works projects have tremendous impact on the economy. First, and foremost, they put people to work, and they do it quickly.
Second, public works result in a well-maintained infrastructure that allows the efficient movement of goods and produce throughout the nation. Maintaining this infrastructure requires constant vigilance.
We currently find ourselves with a heightened sense of awareness about the need for a strong transportation network for purposes of public safety.
Illinois is uniquely positioned in the center of the nation as a critical juncture, for goods and produce travelling north and south and east and west.
While increased funding helps our economy, Illinois isn’t the only beneficiary when our transportation network is well-funded. We are a microcosm of the nation with respect to our transportation system.
Our transportation network is key to the nation’s ability to move people and goods because of its geographic location and extensive road, rail, airport and waterway network. Let me offer some examples.
· The state hosts the nation’s third largest interstate highway network with five of the transcontinental interstates moving traffic through Illinois
· Two of the nation’s top rail freight gateways and six of the nation’s seven major railroads converge in Illinois, with the Chicago region serving as the nation’s rail hub.
· Illinois is one of the nation’s major multi-modal centers with significant trucks-on-flat-car facilities and other truck-railroad crossing points, a fact which Congressmen Lipinski understands and appreciates.
In light of the importance transportation funding holds for Illinois as a state, and as a key transportation hub for the nation, the Transportation for Illinois Coalition has united behind a statement asking that you and your colleagues increase funding to transportation generally AND increase Illinois’ share of the national total. These increases we are requesting are justified in light of Illinois’ dominant and critical position in the nation’s transportation infrastructure.
A year ago, recognizing that the state’s, and the nation’s, economy benefits greatly from increased spending on our transportation infrastructure, I joined with organized labor and with like-minded business and civic organizations to form the TFIC. We are united behind the need for more transportation funding in Illinois and will not miss the opportunity this reauthorization presents. The coalition has members from throughout the state and from diverse points of view and backgrounds. But we all understand the importance of what you are considering and how it will impact our state.
In addition to our broad-based support for additional funding, the TFIC supports the following general principles.
TFIC supports increasing Illinois’ share of transportation funding significantly above the 3.38 percent guarantee in TEA-21.
TFIC supports the “firewalls” contained in TEA-21 to ensure that funds that are generated by highway users and other transportation-related revenues are spent only on transportation needs
TFIC supports maintaining the current highway/transit funding ratio of 80-20.
And TFIC supports crediting the Highway Trust Fund with the “earned interest” on its unexpended balances.
I appreciate this opportunity to address your committee and would be happy to try to answer any questions you may have.