Casten talks infrastructure, child tax credit during Saturday town hall

  • U.S. Rep. Sean Casten of Downers Grove speaks Saturday during a town hall in Downers Grove.

    U.S. Rep. Sean Casten of Downers Grove speaks Saturday during a town hall in Downers Grove. Courtesy of Raul Juarez

  • U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, a Downers Grove Democrat representing the 6th Congressional District, takes questions from a near-capacity crowd during a town hall meeting Saturday in Downers Grove.

    U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, a Downers Grove Democrat representing the 6th Congressional District, takes questions from a near-capacity crowd during a town hall meeting Saturday in Downers Grove. Courtesy of Raul Juarez

  • More than 100 people gathered at the Downers Grove American Legion Post 80 Saturday to question U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, a Downers Grove Democrat representing Illinois' 6th Congressional District, which includes parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties.

    More than 100 people gathered at the Downers Grove American Legion Post 80 Saturday to question U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, a Downers Grove Democrat representing Illinois' 6th Congressional District, which includes parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties. Barbara Vitello | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/17/2021 7:30 PM

Infrastructure, the child tax credit and clean energy were among the topics U.S. Rep. Sean Casten addressed Saturday during a near-capacity town hall at the American Legion Post in Downers Grove.

Casten said his last in-person town hall was 17 months ago, before the state imposed restrictions on public gatherings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

"Democracy works best when it's in person, "said Casten, a Downers Grove Democrat representing Illinois' 6th Congressional District, which includes parts of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake and McHenry counties. "Democracy is at its worst when it's the 15th comment on a Facebook thread."

Addressing COVID-19, Casten said 280 people, on average, die each day from the virus, which he said is an improvement on the 884 COVID-related deaths that occurred a year ago on that date.

"We're not back, but we're a lot better than where we were," he said, adding: "Please do not rest easy. Don't take anything for granted. If you are not vaccinated, if you don't have a medical reason not to, please get vaccinated."

Referencing the American Jobs Plan and its emphasis on infrastructure, Casten talked about the importance of expanding broadband nationwide, citing as an example West Chicago where he said 50% of students learning remotely during the pandemic lacked wireless access.

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"You can't have equity unless you have broadband," he said.

Casten said climate change and clean energy are economic opportunities to seize.

A bipartisan group of 10 U.S. senators last week unveiled a nearly $1 trillion package of traditional infrastructure spending for roads, bridges, broadband and some climate change investments in electric vehicles and resiliency for extreme weather conditions, The Associated Press reported. The senators are struggling to draft their proposal into legislation as disagreements are emerging over how to pay for it. The work comes as Republicans have disagreed with the size of infrastructure and other economic stimulus plans President Joe Biden and Democrats have proposed.

Casten said part of the infrastructure proposal is to get solar panels and electric vehicles built out in an equitable manner, in addition to road, bridge, rail and waterway improvements.

Casten said, in response to an attendee's question about why it took 20 years of pleading from construction and trucking industries, unions and building tradespeople, the infrastructure bill should have been done "a long time ago"

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

He added that U.S. infrastructure earned a C- from the American Society of Civil Engineers, resulting in huge costs to truckers and commuters.

"We have done infrastructure in this country, but we haven't replaced it at the rate it's deteriorating," he said. "Part of the reason is we have always funded roads and bridges with a gasoline tax, which has not been raised in over a decade."

As a result, construction costs rose, but funding did not increase, he said.

Casten said he supports making permanent the expanded child tax credit, which he said benefits roughly 69% of children in his district, lifting 5,500 of them out of poverty. Statewide, the tax credit is expected to benefit more than 2.5 million children and lift 153,000 children out of poverty, he said.

Democrats see the expanded child tax credit as a landmark program along the lines of Social Security, saying it will lead to better outcomes in adulthood that will help economic growth. But many Republicans warn that the payments will discourage parents from working and ultimately feed into long-term poverty.

Casten touted the proposal to extend public education by four years, including two years of prekindergarten and two years of college education, saying, it would "catch us up" to our trading partners.

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