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updated: 2/22/2011 7:09 PM

Local federal lawmakers trying to at least reduce Fermilab budget cut

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  • U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren

      U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren

  • Sen. Dick Durbin

      Sen. Dick Durbin

 
 

Key federal lawmakers in the battle to save federal funds for Fermilab spoke openly in recent days about the need to ensure the vitality of one of the largest employers in the Fox Valley.

Congressman Randy Hultgren on Tuesday echoed the importance of the lab for the region as stated by Sen. Dick Durbin last week.

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Durbin penned a letter to the subcommittee chairman who controls the purse on what is proposed to be a 20 percent cut of Fermilab's nearly $400 million budget.

Lab Director Pier Oddone said such a cut would trigger the loss of at least 400 jobs.

The news comes at a time when the future of the lab is already in flux with the looming shutdown of its cornerstone, the Tevatron accelerator.

"This is not the path to economic growth," Durbin wrote. "We need to invest in crucial research that fuels American innovation. Fiscal responsibility demands thoughtful allocation of our resources that will lead us to a stronger economic standing. These draconian cuts to the work of our national labs is ill-advised and shortsighted."

But Hultgren was one of about 90 freshmen members of Congress who rode a campaign pledge of deep federal spending cuts all the way to election victory. He said Tuesday some cuts at Fermilab will be necessary to address the federal deficit.

"My commitment is so strong to Fermilab," Hultgren told attendees of a Geneva Chamber of Commerce breakfast Tuesday. "But this is a struggle I've got. It doesn't work for me to say cut everybody else's but don't cut mine. It just doesn't work. So what I think we have to say is if you have to make cuts, make them as painless as possible. I think 20 percent is too much. Maybe at 5 percent we could figure out a way to get through that. They are doing important work there. It's important to our region. I'm going to make sure that we have a plan in place that Fermilab's going to be vibrant 20 years from now, 30 years from now ... better than it is now."

Hultgren said he plans to meet with Oddone on Wednesday to discuss the lab's budget. Hultgren said he already received an on-the-record commitment from President Barack Obama's top science adviser that Fermilab will receive "strong support" moving forward.

All those comments may help appease local mayors and local businesses thinking of expanding in the Fox Valley because of Fermilab. Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke said he rounded up mayors from six local communities to pressure Congress not to cut funding for scientific research.

"Fermilab is a real golden nugget for us to have as an adjacent neighbor," Schielke said. "Some of the new industrial and business inquiries (in Batavia) are from industries that want to be in close proximity or in conjunction with Fermilab."

• Daily Herald staff writer Susan Sarkauskas contributed to this story.

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