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Public Statements

Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2008

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. JACKSON of Illinois. Mr. Chairman, let me thank the gentleman from California for offering his amendment and thus for the opportunity to defend
an important project to the people of the State of Illinois and the Nation.

While the gentleman has served two terms in Congress, he has inadvertently entered in a three-decade-old conversation about expanding aviation capacity in Illinois. And his amendment profoundly impacts 12 years of my work in this body.

In fact, the development of a new airport to service the Chicago metropolitan area was first advanced by a well-respected Republican governor, Governor Jim Edgar.

Nationally, aviation is growing at roughly 4 percent, but in the Chicago region it's growing at only 2 percent. Because of capacity constraints at our existing facilities, Midway's runways are too short and O'Hare Airport reached operational capacity 10 years ago and is subject to annual review of capping the number of operations at this facility.

ALNAC is a local airport commission constituted under Illinois State law and comprised of 21 home-rule municipalities in Cook, Will and Kankakee Counties.

ALNAC has created an innovative public-private partnership to design, finance, build and operate a new commercial airport for the Chicago region located near University Park, Illinois.

ALNAC is a legitimate airport commission. In fact, the Governor of the State of Illinois in his State of the State address said specifically, ``Congressman Jackson's plan to build the Abraham Lincoln National Airport at Peotone will not compete with O'Hare for needed Federal dollars, meaning the Airport Improvement Program, not small business or financial services problems, but the Airport Improvement Program construction funds.

His plan to use private investment is both a welcomed and innovative way to build an airport. I strongly support it, and I hope you do too.''

The Illinois Department of Transportation said that ``ALNAC is a local airport authority that was formed through an intergovernmental agreement between its constituent members comprised of 32 Illinois municipalities located in the Chicago region.''

The Illinois Department of Transportation says that ``ALNAC and its provide partners submitted a comprehensive layout plan to the FAA and to IDOT in July of 2004.''

To give you some of the specific examples of the airport layout plan that we submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration that are presently before the FAA for review are under consideration as we await soon a record of decision.

And lastly, the Illinois Attorney General, in her most recent opinion, said that ``ALNAC is a legitimate airport commission that only waits for the governor to lease its land to the State of Illinois or to the commission for the purposes of constructing an airport.''

This grant allows ALNAC to partner with local universities and/or small business development centers to conduct a study on how the region can maximize job creation and retention and ensure minority participation for local residents during all phases of the airport project. Specifically, the study will produce recommendations and guidelines and benchmarks to do the following: assure maximum participation for local female, disadvantaged and minority businesses in airport construction and financing operations; identify regional job training needs and relevant job training programs; develop, grow and improve local small business opportunities. Support all aspects of entrepreneurial activities and monitor progress.

The gentleman might ask the question, why now? Many communities in the region have 60 people for every one job. Ford Heights, Illinois, according to Money magazine, is ``one of the poorest communities in America'' and it abuts the airport, and they deserve to participate in the economic boom that this project will bring.

The Illinois Department of Transportation is in the process of submitting ALNAC's layout plan to the FAA for final approval. IDOT has said that a record of decision could come as quickly as 6 months. If that's true, now is the time to begin planning for local participation in the financing and the construction of this airport.

ALNAC's airport plan, Mr. Chairman, also known as the ``Jackson Plan,'' has been repeatedly endorsed by every major newspaper in Chicago, including the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun Times, the Chicago Daily Defender, the Chicago Daily Southtown. Every major newspaper in the Chicago region, through our very transparent process at the local level, fully appreciates the extent to which for the last 12 years we have invested our time in helping solve the Nation's aviation capacity crisis problem by building a third regional airport.

A 30-year conversation and a 12-year conversation for which I have almost been solely responsible for leading here in the Congress of the United States. In fact, I've been called a one-issue guy in the 12 years that I've been in Congress, and it's focused around this issue.

I strongly oppose the gentleman's amendment. I thank the chairman for his consideration of this earmark. I would strongly encourage Members to vote ``yes'' on this amendment.


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