‘Optimistic’ Pritzker urges Congress to pass Biden’s plan for billions in state aid

(The Center Square) – Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said President-elect Joe Biden’s stimulus plan will help close Illinois’ multi-billion dollar budget hole.

In his news conference Friday afternoon, Pritzker said the COVID-19 pandemic has put holes in local budgets managed by Democrats and Republicans alike and the prospect of federal funds is a welcome one.

“Yesterday, President-elect Biden put out a serious and deliberate plan to accelerate bringing an end to this pandemic,” he said. “I’ve had numerous conversations with the incoming administration to share the challenges the states have faced and what role the federal government must play in our recovery. So, too, have Republican governors … I have every reason to be optimistic for the future of Illinois and the nation. I urge Congress to take up the Biden plan immediately.”

Several states aren’t facing budget deficits, with some seeing budget surpluses.

Illinois is facing a $4 billion budget hole that could grow by up to $1 billion more if lawmakers fail to decouple from a federal tax law meant to allow businesses to write off 2020 losses immediately. State Democratic leaders wrote the federal delegation from Illinois in April saying they needed $40 billion in aid.

He was asked about whether or not the Biden plan would allow him to skip making any of the $700 million in cuts to state personnel and other services that he had announced last month.

“The loss of revenues as a result of COVID-19 is the biggest challenge in the 20-21 budget. When you look at what President-Elect Biden has proposed, it would support, not just Illinois states across the nation in their filling the hole that was left by the loss of revenues from COVID-19. It will be helpful to our budget in the fiscal year 2021.”

Many oppose sending untethered federal funds to states that have spent as if there were no budget crunch, calling Biden’s plan a bailout for reckless spending governments.

“The governor continues to hope for magic money from Washington to exempt him from the responsibility of responsibly balancing the budget,” said Illinois Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie, R-Hawthorn Woods. “But even President Biden is unlikely to hand us a blank check. It’s time to actually buckle down and start the hard work that he’s avoided to date.”

Others criticized Biden’s plan itself.

“Bailouts for state and local governments for decades of reckless spending by irresponsible politicians have no place in a COVID relief bill and they should be rejected,” said Americans for Prosperity President Ted Phillips. “Instead, we must prioritize stopping the virus and getting people back to work as quickly and safely as possible to save the lives and livelihoods of as many people as we can.”

U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, a Peoria Republican, filed legislation last September that would require states to have a certain level of fiscal health before receiving any untethered federal funds, something that would have disqualified Illinois from receiving aid.

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