State of the 8th Congressional District

FILE - In this April 1, 2009 file photo, then-Assistant Veterans Affairs Secretary-designate Tammy Duckworth testifies on Cap
FILE - In this April 1, 2009 file photo, then-Assistant Veterans Affairs Secretary-designate Tammy Duckworth testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington. After more than a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, dozens of military veterans _ Republicans and Democrats _ are running for Congress this election year as voters have shown a fresh enthusiasm for candidates with no elected experience. This year, as the military has opened more jobs to women closer to the front lines, several of those veterans are females with battlefield scars and pioneering accomplishments. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg, File)

Tonight, President Obama will give his State of the Union Address and lay out his vision for America. As your Representative, I think it is similarly important to present to you my priorities for Illinois' 8th Congressional District. After a month in Congress, I am still convinced that common sense solutions can make the American Dream more accessible for everyone. On the biggest issues we currently face -- infrastructure investments, jobs, our budget and immigration reform -- there is a bipartisan path forward that can both get results and restore faith in our nation's capital.

In my travels around 8th Congressional District during the last year and a half, I heard my neighbors' frustration that the Elgin-O'Hare Expressway reaches neither Elgin nor O'Hare Airport. For commuters, this means unnecessary congestion. For our businesses, this means inefficient routes for transporting their products. After working with local mayors and administrations in Springfield and Washington, we are finally going to begin construction on the Elgin-O'Hare Western Access project with the help of $300 million in federal funds. This investment in our economy will cut commuting time and create as many as 65,000 jobs by 2040. Projects like these grow our economy and will help reduce the deficit in the long term. I look forward to working with other Members of Congress, from both parties, to create an infrastructure bank that will help towns and states invest in their future.

Unemployment also continues to be a major issue for our community. Thousands of my neighbors in the 8th Congressional District have been unemployed for more than six months through no fault of their own. They lost their jobs during the recession and it has gotten tougher for them to find work as the gaps in their resumes grow. At the same time, nearly all Members of Congress agree that small businesses need a break. I believe that a tax credit for businesses that hire the long term unemployed will help jump start our economy. In the current economic climate, investing in a new employee can be risky, but a tax credit will help businesses feel confident enough to bring people currently receiving unemployment benefits back into the work force.

If Congress fails to reach a budget agreement soon, $1.2 trillion in major spending cuts will begin this March. These cuts will fall across the board, hurting necessary programs that invest in our nation's future. Instead of getting bogged down in the same fights of years past, Members on both sides of the aisle should agree to common sense measures, like reducing the $1 billion in Medicare fraud that occurs each week, ending subsidies for oil and gas industries that report record profits and eliminating tax breaks for large corporations and replacing them with support for the small businesses that are the engine of our economy. Together, we can reduce our debt by avoiding ideological battles and cutting government waste.

Finally, Congress will be considering ways to fix our broken immigration system this year. My mother is an immigrant and my father's family fought in the American Revolution. I know firsthand that immigrants make enormous contributions to our nation, but I also know that we need to secure our borders and make sure that those who came here illegally wait their turn, pay a fine and any unpaid taxes, and pass a criminal background check before becoming citizens. I will work to make sure that the final legislation strengthens our economy, makes Americans safer and helps millions achieve the American dream.

The way forward for the 8th Congressional District and our country must involve compromise. I know that you sent me to Washington to get results. That is why I voted to go without pay if we cannot pass a budget. If you didn't do your job you wouldn't get paid, and neither should Congress. By working together, we can improve the lives of the people we serve. I look forward to hearing from President Obama tonight and getting back to work for you tomorrow.