February 11, 2003

CHICAGO (Feb. 11)–U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) appears to have responded favorably to a UTU request that he support Amtrak’s 2003 budget request of $1.2 billion.

Although details were not immediately available, a Fitzgerald spokesman said Illinois’ junior U.S. senator had written a letter to his colleagues supporting the full Amtrak budget request.

Fitzgerald’s action came following a telephone call last week from Frank Watson, leader of the Republican minority in the Illinois State Senate. Sen. Watson, a longtime friend of the UTU, reached out to Sen. Fitzgerald at the request of the UTU’s Illinois Legislative Board.

With Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo, Deputy Director John Burner and Alternate National Legislative Director James Stem beside him in his office, Watson asked Sen. Fitzgerald personally to show his support for Amtrak by adding his signature to a “Dear Colleague” letter in which Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) called upon Congress to authorize Amtrak’s full 2003 budget request for $1.2 billion.

Fitzgerald did not sign the Hutchison letter. However, a spokesman in Fitzgerald’s office told the UTU today that the Senator had written a letter of his own that made similar points. A copy of the letter was not available at press time, but “Hot Topics” will share the details with readers if they are released.

Illinois’ senior U.S. Senator, Democrat Richard J. Durbin, was an early signer of Sen. Hutchison’s letter, adding his name almost as soon as the document began to circulate. Durbin has been a longtime supporter of Amtrak, commuter rail and mass transit.