Chicago Sun-Times

To avoid ‘night­mare’ cuts, state must fight for fed­eral funds and bal­ance bud­get

- Business · U.S. News · Politics · Springfield · Washington · Illinois · J.B. Pritzker · California · Republican Party (United States) · Texas · Florida · United States of America · United States Senate · Mitch McConnell · McConnell · Donald Trump · The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

We’ve all known for months that COVID-19 would wreck the state’s al­ready pre­car­i­ous fi­nances.

And now that we’re be­gin­ning to see the ex­tent of the pos­si­ble dam­age caused by the $6 bil­lion bud­get gap, it’s clear that Spring­field and Wash­ing­ton D.C. must work to­gether — harder and more bi­par­ti­san than they ever have — to gain more fed­eral stim­u­lus fund­ing while get­ting Illi­nois’ fis­cal house in or­der.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned this week of a “night­mare sce­nario” bud­get with sub­stan­tial across-the­board cuts and pos­si­ble lay­offs of thou­sands of state work­ers.

And in a let­ter writ­ten Wed­nes­day to the state’s con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion, Pritzker urged the law­mak­ers to find bi­par­ti­san so­lu­tions to bail out the state.

“Forc­ing states and lo­cal gov­ern­ments to make mas­sive bud­get cuts is harm­ing our na­tion’s eco­nomic re­cov­ery and will have dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences on busi­nesses, schools, first re­spon­ders, work­ing fam­i­lies and ev­ery­day Illi­noisans who are al­ready suf­fer­ing,” he said.

Illi­nois isn’t the only state in fi­nan­cial dis­tress be­cause of COVID-19.

The dou­ble whammy of sub­stan­tially re­duced tax rev­enue and the in­creased costs of do­ing gov­ern­ment’s busi­ness has cre­ated a na­tional cri­sis af­fect­ing nearly ev­ery state.

Wash­ing­ton D.C.’s non-par­ti­san Cen­ter on Bud­get and Pol­icy Priorities re­ports that Cal­i­for­nia could face a $32 bil­lion drop in state gov­ern­ment rev­enue in 2021. And pre­dom­i­nantly Repub­li­can states are not im­mune. Texas faces a $4.4 bil­lion de­cline this year, ac­cord­ing to the cen­ter.

Florida is ex­pected to lose $7 bil­lion in rev­enue be­tween 2020 and 2022.

“Es­ti­mates show that rev­enues for the cur­rent fis­cal year, which be­gan on July 1 for most states, could fall as much as or more than they did in the worst year of the Great Re­ces­sion and re­main de­pressed in fol­low­ing years,” ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

And the re­ces­sion likely will be deep, which is why tril­lions more in fed­eral stim­u­lus money to state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments will be needed — a truth U.S. Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump must face.

As we’ve ar­gued here be­fore, cit­i­zens need ro­bust and func­tional state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments in or­der to get through this pan­demic.

Weak­ened gov­ern­ments too poor to ad­e­quately serve the public’s needs are a li­a­bil­ity in times like these. They also collect no less taxes, by the way.

This means both par­ties in Illi­nois’ con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion must fight for more fed­eral stim­u­lus fund­ing to cover the tsunami of pan­demic-re­lated ex­penses, while Pritzker and state leg­is­la­tors do the hard, nec­es­sary work needed to bring the rest of the state’s fi­nances in or­der.

It’s not “either/or.” It’s “both.”

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