Kinzinger visits new laboratory at NIU as part of 16th District tour
DeKALB – U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, said lawmakers make decisions about the country’s $3 trillion budget every day that affect people in his district. And, he said, he supports funding for national laboratories and more people going into science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers.
Kinzinger visited new science laboratories Tuesday at Northern Illinois University and heard students and faculty talk about how the university’s collaborations with national laboratories make students more competitive in their field. He said it’s essential to come back to visit some of his constituents in the 16th Congressional District to hear how those decisions actually affect the district.
“And what I saw today was where the federal government is spending money to both help kids get a good education, which is essential, but also actually really develop good technology that
I think is going to really be beneficial to people, to budgets and things in the future,” Kinzinger said.
Kinzinger’s visit to NIU was one of several stops that were part of a three-day tour within the district, which included the DeKalb Taylor Municipal Airport to talk about bringing in more air traffic and looking at a federal partnership with communities during an opioid awareness forum in Rockford. Other stops Wednesday and Thursday include Rochelle, Dixon and Braidwood.
Gerald Blazey, vice president of research and innovation partnerships at NIU, said the new lab will allow students and faculty to familiarize themselves with research instrumentation used by national labs, such as the Chicago-area Argonne National Laboratory. He said that access to the lab also will help with atomic and molecular research particularly for chemists, physicists and biologists.
Blazey said this was not the congressman’s first visit. He said he does not feel that national labs will not lose their funding anytime soon, but the university made it clear during this visit that national labs remain important to local and national education and research.
“And, on [Kinzinger’s] part, I think he probably saw the depth of the importance, both in terms of disciplines and the number of people involved,” Blazey said.
Kinzinger said national labs have received more money in the last budget Congress passed. If there are any proposed budgetary cutbacks within any committee where he can provide input, he said, it’s important to be able to talk about his observations on how that money has had an affect and why it should stay in the budget.
Kinzinger said a huge portion of NIU’s finances come from the state, which still has its own budgetary problems that need to be addressed. He said those state financial issues need to be fixed in order to continue to help universities such as NIU in the state.
“I’ll leave that to some of the folks in Springfield to figure out how to get their act together, because they haven’t for a long time,” Kinzinger said. “So that would be good.”
Bob Pritchard, former Illinois state representative and a new NIU trustee, said having lawmakers listen to anecdotes from students and faculty can be helpful to the legislative process overall.
“Because it’s those stories that [Kinzinger] can use with other congressmen and senators in convincing them of whatever the particular bill or program may be,” Pritchard said.
The federal government can help schools such as NIU by making financial aid and loans easier for people to get, thus allowing students to into these kinds of academic programs, Kinzinger said. He said the federal government also can help students wanting to enroll in vocational schools by making funding more easily available to them.
“I think being able to think agilely outside of kind of how we’ve been doing education is essential,” Kinzinger said. “In some cases, that means us having to step back and rethink where are the needs and how we get folks to that point.”