Pritzker says grants, personnel costs being considered for savings

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Gov. JB Pritzker said Wednesday that agencies under his control are looking at grant programs and personnel costs to reduce expenses, but did not offer additional details of cuts that could be in the works.

At the same time, Pritzker struck an optimistic tone that Congress will still eventually approve additional aid to states and cities to offset the loss of revenue from the coronavirus pandemic.

During a virtual news conference, Pritzker addressed questions about the kinds of reductions state agency directors are suggesting following his directive that they identify cuts of up to 5 percent this year. The governor also has asked directors to identify 10 percent reductions that can be proposed for next year’s budget.

“The challenge when you have such a large number to consider is how to do the least amount of damage,” Pritzker said.

He said the same people opposed to the graduated income tax that he wants to bring to Illinois are also opposed to anymore federal aid to states and consequently are forcing “deep and lasting, tremendously damaging cuts if we had to make all of those cuts.” He said the funding shortfall could force cuts to public safety programs and schools.

“I don’t know anybody who thinks that’s a good idea,” he said.

Pritzker acknowledged what will be tough are cuts to personnel costs in the state. Illinois already has the lowest per capita state workforce in the country.

“As we’re trying to build back a government that actually services people, it’s very difficult to consider who to lay off,” he said.

Pritzker did not say when he might start to impose the cuts directors identify.

Although talks in Washington on a new COVID relief package were broken off by President Donald Trump, Pritzker said he remains optimistic something will be done, primarily because some state’s led by Republican governors have financial problems as great as or greater than those states with Democratic governors. Pritzker said he thinks no matter who is elected president, one of the first things they’ll have to do is act on a relief package.

Pritzker also gave an update on COVID-19 cases in the state during the news conference. The governor is currently quarantined because a member of his staff tested positive for the virus. He said he’s been tested twice in the last 10 days and the results have been negative.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported 2,630 new cases of COVID-19 Wednesday, bringing the statewide total to 307,641. There were another 42 deaths bringing that total to 8,878.

A week after saying there were promising declines in nearly every region of the state, Pritzker said things have “cooled off a bit.” Positivity rates across the state have leveled off, he said, and three regions that had been showing declining positivity rates were now leveled off. Region 9 at the northern border of the state and Region 5 covering far southern Illinois have gone from decreasing positivity to increasing.

The only region in the state to flip from an increasing rate to a “relatively stable” rate is Region 3 that includes Sangamon County, Pritzker said.

Region 1 that includes Rockford, Winnebago County and other north and northwestern counties had mitigation efforts imposed because of rising numbers of cases. That region remains under those restrictions.

Pritzker said the Metro East area that has been under restrictions since August has shown significant improvement and could see the restrictions lifted by the end of the week.

Pritzker lauded the level of testing going on in Illinois. The state passed the six million mark for tests administered on Wednesday. Illinois is averaging about 60,000 tests a day.

“There is testing available to you if you need it,” Pritzker said.

Contact Doug Finke: doug.finke@sj-r.com, 788-1527, twitter.com/dougfinkesjr

Feeds,News,Region: Peoria,Region: Central

via News – Woodford Times – Peoria, IL https://ift.tt/39GrFzu

October 7, 2020 at 02:11PM

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