ROCK ISLAND – This past year, Congresswoman Cheri Bustos (IL-17) has delivered real results for the families of Illinois’ 17th Congressional District, while continuing to focus on economic growth, manufacturing, veterans and government waste. She has also emerged as a key leader in the House Democratic Caucus as she transitions into her third term.
Below is an outline of Congresswoman Bustos’ work in 2016:
In addition to serving as a Senior Whip, late this year Congresswoman Bustos secured a key position in Democratic House Leadership. Following the 2016 election, Congresswoman Bustos’ colleagues elected her to serve as a Co-Chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC). In this role, she will work to improve the Democratic Party’s connection to America’s heartland and fight to strengthen working families in rural and industrial communities. As the only Midwesterner in House Democratic Leadership, Congresswoman Bustos will ensure that our region and Illinois’ families have a voice at the decision-making table.
INVESTING IN OUR INFRASTRUCTURE
As a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Congresswoman Bustos understands that for every dollar invested in infrastructure, about two dollars of new economic activity is generated. That’s why, when Governor Bruce Rauner was stonewalling progress on the Quad-Cities to Chicago passenger rail project, she forcefully urged him to take action before the $177 million in federal funding was set to expire.
When Governor Rauner refused to respond and continued to say the project was “under review,” Congresswoman Bustos would not accept more obstruction with so many jobs on the line. She sent Governor Rauner the exact same letter with handwritten edits underscoring just how important it was for him to stop playing politics and start working with her to move the project forward. With public pressure from Congresswoman Bustos and the community, Governor Rauner finally relented and agreed to put the project back on track.
In addition to passenger rail, Congresswoman Bustos has also been a strong advocate for our region’s airports. In the past two years, she has helped secure more than $6.7 million in federal funding for Quad City International Airport; nearly $6 million for General Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport; and nearly $16 million for Chicago Rockford International Airport. This funding will be used to improve safety, create jobs and strengthen our region’s economy.
FIGHTING FOR A 21ST CENTURY HEARTLAND
This past summer, Congresswoman Bustos embarked on a 21st Century Heartland Tour to listen and learn more about the challenges facing rural families. One of the most pressing issues facing rural America is the opioid and heroin epidemic that has devastated far too many of our communities. That’s why Congresswoman Bustos passed the bipartisan Nurturing and Supporting Healthy Babies Act to improve care for babies born addicted to heroin or other opioids. She has also strongly supported local initiatives – such as the “Safe Passages” program in Pekin – that bring communities together to tackle this epidemic.
As a member of the House Agriculture Committee, Congresswoman Bustos has also been a strong advocate for our farmers and rural economy. She worked to convince the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to increase ethanol usage in the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). Congresswoman Bustos also joined President Obama as part of his historic diplomatic mission to Cuba, where she continued to push for increased agricultural trade that will benefit Illinois’ farmers and agricultural economy.
In addition to agriculture, manufacturing is a critical component of our region’s economy. But many manufacturers have voiced their concerns to Congresswoman Bustos that there are jobs to fill, but not enough workers with the right skills needed to succeed in today’s manufacturing industry. That’s why Congresswoman Bustos’ Third Annual Economic Summit focused on closing the skills gap. At this event, she brought together educators, business leaders and government officials to develop solutions to this pressing challenge. By working together to tailor educational curriculums, and by establishing new internship and apprenticeship programs, we can ensure that our workforce is among the most skilled and best-trained in the world.
GROWING OUR MANUFACTURING INDUSTRY BY MAKING IT IN AMERICA
Our region has a rich manufacturing history, and Congresswoman Bustos is committed to growing our economy and sparking the next industrial revolution right here in Illinois. That’s why she introduced the Boosting America’s Exports Act, which would empower small and medium-sized businesses to grow the economy by helping them find new markets. The Boosting America’s Exports Act would give more resources to Export Assistance Centers to help these businesses navigate the global marketplace and create jobs by exporting their American-made products overseas. This was one of two pieces of Congresswoman Bustos’ legislation included in the House Democrats’ Make It In America agenda.
Congresswoman Bustos also introduced the bipartisan Buy America for Drinking Water Extension Act. This legislation would create jobs and grow the economy by ensuring that all iron and steel products used for projects funded by the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) are made entirely in the United States. As Congresswoman Bustos enters her third term, she will continue fighting for the Make It In America agenda to build on our region’s manufacturing tradition.
PROTECTING OUR KIDS FROM LEAD EXPOSURE
Earlier this year, Congresswoman Bustos was shocked and disturbed to learn that more than 14 percent of children tested in Knox County had lead in their blood levels above the point at which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends intervention. She also learned that recent water samples in the city of Galesburg had been testing above the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “federal action level” for lead content. While this was Galesburg’s first water test to occur during her time in office, the city had exceeded this level in the majority of tests going back more than two decades.
As a mother, Congresswoman Bustos knows that there is no safe level of lead exposure, especially for kids and pregnant women. Despite facing resistance, she immediately urged city officials to apply for funding through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund so they could start replacing lead service lines throughout the city. Because of her efforts and persistence, Congresswoman Bustos was able to help secure a $4 million forgivable loan to replace approximately 2,000 lead pipes – nearly half of the lead pipes in the city.
But the issue of lead exposure isn’t unique to one town, and it isn’t just limited to old homes. Too many kids face the threat of lead exposure in schools, coming from old lead pipes and outdated water fountains. That’s why Congresswoman Bustos partnered with Congressman Bobby Rush (IL-01) to introduce legislation that would give schools more resources to replace lead pipes and water fountains that are putting our kids at risk. Parents should not have to worry about their children’s health at schools, and schools should have the resources they need to address this issue without taking away from our kids’ education.
STRENGTHENING THE ARSENAL FOR THE FUTURE
As one of our region’s largest employers, Congresswoman Bustos has been a staunch and effective advocate for the 6,000 hard-working men and women at the Rock Island Arsenal. During this year’s passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Congresswoman Bustos successfully worked with Senator-elect Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Congressman Dave Loebsack (IA-02) to include provisions that will help ensure the long-term success of the Arsenal. Specifically, their provisions will require the Department of Defense to submit a plan for the long-term viability of the Arsenal, identify specific equipment that can be made at the Arsenal and report on the manufacturing needs to sustain the readiness of the U.S. Armed Forces.
SERVING AS A WATCHDOG FOR OUR VETERANS
Congresswoman Bustos strongly believes that we must honor our nation’s commitment to those who have stepped up to serve, and that we have an obligation to provide them with the care and support they have earned. When she learned that some of our VA clinics were not meeting the standards that our veterans deserve, Congresswoman Bustos took action and went into watchdog mode. In addition to going to health care facilities to hear directly from veterans about the care they receive, she asked VA Leadership for a plan of action to reduce wait times. Since then, wait times have decreased and Congresswoman Bustos will continue to push for more progress to improve veterans’ health care.
MAKING GOVERNMENT WORK FOR OUR REGION
Whether it has been workshops, roundtable discussions or other constituent services, Congresswoman Bustos has always strived to bring valuable resources to the people she serves. That’s why earlier this year, she partnered with local officials in Peoria to host officials from the Small Business Administration (SBA) for a minority-owned small business workshop. Because access to capital has been a steep hurdle for many minority entrepreneurs, she convened SBA officials, local lenders and entrepreneurs to discuss best practices and connect them with the resources they need to succeed. In fact, one gentleman told the story about how he’d like to start an auto repair shop, and he was offered a loan on the spot.
BY THE NUMBERS
14 – Congresswoman Bustos visited all 14 counties in Illinois’ 17th District this year.
$475,847.61 – This year, Congresswoman Bustos’ office has returned $475,847.61 to constituents in our District, which they recovered from the Social Security Administration, the IRS and the VA.
140 – As part of her aggressive outreach strategy, Congresswoman Bustos hosted or attended 140 events in 2016 in Illinois’ 17th Congressional District.
32,831 – Congresswoman Bustos prides herself on having a responsive and attentive constituent services operation, and her office has replied to 32,831 messages or requests this year.
120 – Over the course of 2016, Congresswoman Bustos has held 120 constituent meetings or discussions.
829 – Congresswoman Bustos strives to make government work for the people she serves, and her office has closed 829 casework requests this year – helping Illinoisans cut through red tape at the VA, IRS and other federal agencies.