Members of the Illinois House want a say on how Illinois will appropriate money from the federal government allocated in the American Rescue Plan signed Thursday by President Joe Biden.
“It’s past time for us to come together and start to work on (appropriating the funds) as soon as possible,” state Rep. CD Davidsmeyer, R-Jacksonville, said at a Friday press conference.
The $1.9 trillion federal COVID relief bill is more than a bill that gives new stimulus checks of $1,400 to many Americans. It also includes $220 billion for state governments and $130 billion for local governments. Illinois will get $7.5 billion of this for the state along with $13.2 billion to be shared among municipalities and counties.
The state is also getting about $1.8 billion for vaccine distribution and funding for local health departments, health centers and hospitals.
Despite early commitments from Biden to pass a bipartisan package, the bill passed through Congress without any Republican support. Now, Illinois Republicans say the state is faced with a spending choice.
“We have an opportunity to provide relief from COVID or treat it like it’s a magical bailout,” said state Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon. “If we make no underlying changes to the state budget, if we simply take this money that came from the federal government and throw it into the black hole of state day-to-day expenses, I think that would be treating it like a bailout and would be depriving the people from the intended purpose of the funds.”
The funds do help Illinois deal with short-term financial problems. Gov. JB Pritzker’s spokeswoman Jordan Abudayyeh said there are no “concrete answers” on how the money will be allocated yet. However, the funds will help pay for debt directly from COVID-related expenditures and fills a budget hole.
“The Act will provide state and local governments with fiscal support to replace revenue lost due to the pandemic, funding my administration will ensure is spent wisely by paying down loans borrowed from the Federal Reserve to cover costs incurred and remaining bills as a result of COVID-19. I look forward to working with the General Assembly to continue our investments in expanding jobs and fostering economic growth in communities across the state,” Pritzker said in a statement to The State Journal-Register.
More guidance from the federal government is expected in the weeks ahead.
Demmer said the financial impact of COVID-19 on state government was not as bad as many had originally thought it would be, which means the relief should go to real people as Congress intended. He said the state should use this as an opportunity to provide “targeted relief.” Republicans want the money to go toward those who have most adversely been impacted by the economic fallout from the pandemic like small business owners.
Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza dispelled claims Republicans across the country have made about the American Rescue Plan — that it is designed to help states with long-term financial problems that are rooted before the pandemic.
“No, it’s not a ‘bailout’ of blue states by red states. People in blue, red and purple states are hurting and need help,” Mendoza said in a statement. “No, we are not going to spend a penny of the stimulus on old pension debt that predated the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, originally came under fire from Republicans last April for writing a letter to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, asking for $10 billion to bail out Illinois’ public pension system. This round of aid does not appropriate money toward a state’s pension system.
Harmon said “this package gets us one step closer to ending the pandemic and addressing the economic pain it caused.”
Demmer said lawmakers have a choice to make “whether this is COVID relief or a system that was long flawed before anyone ever heard the word COVID.”
Democrat House members are also on board with having a say on appropriating federal dollars.
"I think the legislature would like a say in appropriating that money,” said state Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Chicago, in a Thursday House Revenue and Finance Committee meeting.
Zalewski said afterward he is under the impression Pritzker’s administration is willing to work with lawmakers on appropriating federal funds, but the administration’s first priority would likely be paying off short-term borrowing as a result of the pandemic.
via The State Journal-Register
March 12, 2021 at 06:55PM