News Local/State

Duckworth Talks Taxes, Spending, Quincy Veterans’ Home At Stop In Champaign

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, visiting the University of Illinois RailTEC Center in Champaign.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) listens to a student with the University of Illinois RailTEC Center in Champaign explain one of their research projects. U of I officials include Chancellor Robert Jones, 2nd from left. Sen. Tammy Duckworth's Office

GOP leaders in Congress had not yet released the final version of their tax reform bill when Senator Tammy Duckworth made a stop in Champaign Friday. But the freshman Democrat said she didn’t see how Republicans would adjust to the bill away from the main features that she opposes.

“I still have some real concerns about the fact that the tax cuts for the top income earners and the tax cuts for the largest corporations remain permanent, whereas the tax cuts for small and medium businesses and for middle income families actually go away, after five to ten years,” said Duckworth.

The senator says it’s only fair that if tax cuts are permanent for the country’s largest corporations, they’re permanent for smaller businesses and families, too.

Duckworth’s comments came during a Friday afternoon visit to the University of Illinois Rail Transportation and Engineering Center --- or RailTEC Center --- just hours before Republicans released the final version of the nearly 1100-page bill.

The RailTEC Center, located in in the Interstate industrial park north of I-74 in Champaign, conducts research and trains students in railroad engineering. Duckworth, who serves on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, used the visit to highlight her support for transportation infrastructure projects. A news release from Duckworth chided the Trump administration for not yet announcing any infrastructure proposals to fulfill a frequent campaign promise.

Spending Authorization

Duckworth took questions from reporters on other topics as well, including how Democrats should negotiate on a spending bill to keep the federal government from shutting down on December 23.

“I think that if we are clear as to what are the items that we certainly have to accomplish, that we can enter into negotiations with our eyes wide open," she said, "so that we don’t come out of there with negotiations where one party doesn’t even get to show up to negotiate.”

Duckworth said she agrees with Republican calls for raising defense spending. But the freshman Democrat says she also wants to see more funding for veterans services, public schools and Medicaid.

Duckworth also supports reauthorization of S-CHIP, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and passage of the DREAM Act to help people who were brought to the U-S illegally as minors.

Quincy Veterans' Home

Reporters also asked Duckworth about an official in Illinois governor Bruce Rauner's administration trying to tie the deadly outbreaks of Legionnaire's Disease at the Quincy Veterans' Home to her tenure as director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs from 2006-2009.

"If they’re talking about trying to generate something, then obviously their focus is not in the right place," Duckworth said. "The focus is in taking care of the veterans who live there now, and the family members, and especially those who have lost loved ones.”

Outbreaks of Legionaires’ Disease at the Quincy Veterans’ Home killed 12 residents in 2015 and another one this fall. In response, state officials installed a new water management plant at the Quincy home, and ramped up water testing.

Public radio station WBEZ released an investigation of the problem this week, and 11 families are suing the state for negligence.