Infrastructure, trade big topics at Winchester roundtable

Jacksonville Journal-Courier

Oct. 19–WINCHESTER — Agriculture and infrastructure were the hot issues discussed between Winchester city officials and Congressman Darin LaHood at Wednesday’s roundtable discussion at city hall.

LaHood opened the discussion about his focus on tax reform this year, making the corporate tax rate more competitive and simplifying the tax code from seven brackets to three. From there, the focus would move on to infrastructure priorities, such as making sure river locks and dams are upgraded that need it — the lock at La Grange on the Illinois River was given as an example.

Winchester Mayor Rex McIntire began the question-and-answer session with concerns about what was being done to improve trade. LaHood said that trade was one thing that he disagreed with President Donald Trump on, being a supporter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“I was a strong supporter of the TPP that was negotiated under President (Barack) Obama but with a lot of Republican input,” LaHood said. “It was our way to gravitate toward southeast Asia and open trade agreements with these countries and take away from China. It wasn’t perfect but I thought on the agriculture side it was very good for our products.”

“President Trump tore it up on day one,” he continued. “The thought on that was he could negotiate better trade agreements. We’re 10 months in and haven’t seen one yet. The longer we go without putting trade in place, the Chinese are doing jumping jacks over there because by tearing up TPP all those countries are gravitating towards China.”

On the subject of infrastructure, Winchester City Attorney John Paul Coonrod inquired about potentially bringing funding from the Safe Routes to School program to Illinois communities like Winchester. Winchester, he said, has a real problem with the state of its sidewalks.

LaHood said that he would certainly look into it and follow up.

“We’ve dealt with this in a lot of our other smaller communities,” LaHood said. “We’ve written a lot of letters, made a lot of phone calls, try to be supportive in advocating.”

The congressman also brought up a potential Marquis River Energy ethanol plant that could come to Scott County that he was excited about, though the project is very much in its infancy stages and may not come to fruition just yet. Emergency Manager Justin Daws asked if LaHood was familiar with the company and if he could convince them to do a question and answer session with the city.

“He kind of just swooped in here and set up shop without notifying anyone that he was coming in here,” Daws said. “I knew about it before our county commissioners knew about it.”

“I think he was a little concerned that the state of Illinois wouldn’t help him,” LaHood said. “I think there were some hurdles there and he didn’t want to get ahead of himself and say ‘we’re going to do this’ and then have it fizzle out. … Once I think they understand that it’s full speed ahead I think you’ll see a lot of interaction.”

Nick Draper can be reached at 217-245-6121, ext. 1223, or on Twitter @nick_draper.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Waterways Council, Inc.