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Republicans, Democrats united to keep Argonne, Fermilab jobs

Jun 9, 2017
In The News

Illinois lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are pushing back against cuts in President Donald Trump's proposed budget, which they warn could mean layoffs at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia and Argonne National Laboratory near Darien.

Republican U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren of Plano, whose district includes Fermilab, called that portion of the president's budget a "non-starter." He estimates 150 to 200 jobs at the facility might be affected by the budget plan.

"Our national laboratories are on the forefront of exciting scientific discovery and technological advancement. These discoveries fuel job creation," Hultgren said. "I'll be fighting hard to ensure our labs have the proper staff and resources to ensure our nation remains at the forefront of discovery and job creation."

Meanwhile, Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, a Naperville physicist, spearheaded a letter to Energy Secretary Rick Perry signed by 12 other Illinois Democrats saying, "we fear that the funding levels requested in the (president's budget) would cause permanent damage to our research infrastructure and force our national labs to lay off critical scientific staff."

In a separate statement, Wheaton Republican U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam warned that "cuts like these to critical science programs or initiatives like Great Lakes restoration are shortsighted."

But Roskam added that "the president's budget suggestions are just that, and the American people will in turn make known their priorities through the legislative process."

Democrats signing Foster's May 26 letter include Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth and U.S. Reps. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Schaumburg, Dan Lipinski of Chicago, Mike Quigley of Chicago, Jan Schakowsky of Evanston and Brad Schneider of Deerfield.

Foster asked Perry to identify by June 2 how many positions would be eliminated. So far, there's been no response, a Foster spokesman said Friday.

The president's budget recommends actions such as an 11 percent cut to the National Science Foundation and 57 percent decrease to the Department of Energy's research and development funds.

Such moves are part of the administration's goal "to strengthen national security and public safety," the budget recommendation states.

"National labs are not only places of innovation and advanced scientific research, they also employ thousands of people throughout the country and in Illinois," Foster said.