Peoria Journal Star

November 23, 2004

Congress OKs zoo, museum funds
Bigger, Brighter, Bolder

By Dori Meinert
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Glen Oak Zoo and the Lakeview Regional Museum are among central Illinois projects that would receive federal funds in a massive spending bill passed by Congress over the weekend.

The zoo would receive $275,000 toward construction of its new Africa exhibit, while the museum will receive $275,000 for design and construction of a new building.

Officials working with both projects had asked for several million dollars each.

"The projects I included in my request I think are all serious, worthwhile projects," said U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Peoria, on Monday. "They obviously didn't get anywhere near the amount of money they had requested because of the tight budget."

The funding is contained in a $388 billion spending bill. President Bush is expected to sign it later this week.

Among the highlights:

* East Peoria would receive $2 million for improvements to Camp Street, while the city of Peoria would receive $500,000 for stormwater management projects to prevent flooding in the city's center, $100,000 to improve the city's "southern gateway" and $150,000 for police technology.

* The Biotechnology Research and Development Corp. of Peoria would receive $3.6 million to support the consortium's efforts to direct grant money to biotech research and development work, while the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research would get $3 million for ongoing construction work.

* PeoriaNEXT would receive $200,000 for the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria's Cancer Research Center for renovation of classroom and lab space. Another $275,000 is earmarked for construction of a high-tech business incubator in Peoria's new medical and technology district.

LaHood and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., members of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees, worked together on many of the projects.

But Durbin was one of just two Illinois lawmakers who voted against the bill. The other was Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville.

Durbin's "concern was the process and the way this bill was done," spokesman Joe Shoemaker said. He also objected that Democrats were kept out of the negotiating process.

Durbin and other Democrats were outraged to discover a provision in the bill that would allow top congressional appropriators and their staffs to view individual income tax returns.

Republican leaders have promised not to send the funding bill to the White House until the House repeals the offending provision later this week.

Meanwhile, some taxpayer advocacy groups protested the huge bill as political pork and complained that lawmakers were ignoring the rising deficit.

"Taxpayers have little to be thankful for as members of Congress have helped themselves to the whole hog this Thanksgiving," said Tom Schatz, president of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste.

However, LaHood said, "I don't make any apologies for the fact that the reason I got on the appropriations committee is so we can help rural communities solve some of the infrastructure problems they have and to help other projects in my district that would not ordinarily get federal funding if I weren't on the committee.

"I didn't get everything I wanted or the amounts that I wanted. But I'm proud of the fact that we're able to do what we did," LaHood said.

U.S. Rep. Lane Evans, D-Rock Island, said $1 million was included for improvements to Fulton County Highway 6 to accommodate heavier trucks going to the Central Illinois Energy Cooperative's new $70 million ethanol plant to be constructed south of Canton.