Brian's Column 04-03-2015

My column this week is in response to recent media coverage about Amtrak and its alleged return to northwest Illinois.  The following is a collaborative reply by Senator Dave Syverson, Representative Joe Sosnowski, Representative John Cabello, and me.  As area legislators, we have worked hard to deliver for our area, and we are proud of the fact that over the last four years we have been able to bring a record amount of our tax dollars back home.  During that time we were very careful never to overpromise or mislead our local communities or leaders because financial decisions are made based on those promises.
 
When our former Governor for political gain before an election preyed on people’s dreams by promising them that a train would be running every day by this fall and twice a day in 2016; we had to ask some obvious questions.  Frankly, knowing Governor Quinn’s history, we were shocked by the fact that some local leaders and some in the media would blindly accept his word that this project was funded and in place for completion this year. 

As supporters of rail service, it’s very disappointing that promises were made without the necessary financial resources, but we owe it to the taxpayers of our region and the state to ask the tough questions and do our homework.

In this case, it has become very clear that there was no funding in place for construction or operations, the timing of the project was unrealistic, and there were no state contracts in place.

The problem is that when political promises hit reality, reality always wins.  Now that the election is over and books are opened, we’ve found that Governor Quinn had also made $100s of millions worth of other promises that also have no funding!

In this case, tax dollars were sold on a project that leaders knew was not practical, and someone needs to answer for that.  We have been and are committed to rail, especially cargo, but in light of our state’s financial condition, we need to be realistic and pragmatic.  The funding will not be there in the near future and none of the extremely important preliminary work has been done. 

The initial feasibility studies show there will be very little demand for a train ride that only goes to Chicago once a day, costs $25, and takes almost two hours.  We can’t spend nearly $250 million hoping for future use.  We need to actually prove passenger demand, interest from freight companies, and involvement from the railroads.   None of this has been done.  It was just an empty campaign promise by former Governor Quinn.

In business, words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises, but only performance is reality,” said twentieth century business man Harold S. Geneen.  Politicians can make all the promises they want on the campaign trail, but their performance determines reality.

As always, you can reach me or Sally at 815/232-0774 or email us at repstewart@gmail.com. You can also visit my website at www.repbrianstewart.com or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

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