* From the governor’s office…
Dear Members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation:
As Congress continues its legislative deliberations this week, I write to once again urge all members of our Illinois Congressional delegation to come together in a bipartisan fashion to provide critical support to states and local governments facing disastrous budgetary consequences stemming from unanticipated revenue losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While we sincerely appreciate the financial support to respond to the direct impacts of the pandemic derived from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, Families First Coronavirus Response Act and other Congressional action, there is unfinished business to address the effects of the virus. 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.
This is not just an Illinois problem — or a Florida problem or a Texas problem — nor is it just a red state or a blue state problem: According to estimates at Moody’s Analytics, state governments collectively will have budget shortfalls of $312 billion through the summer of 2022, growing to $500 billion when local governments are included. Illinois alone estimates general fund state revenue losses of over $6.5 billion over fiscal years 2020 and 2021 while facing increasing demands for many health care and human service programs. Making sure that government has the capacity to deliver basic services during these very challenging times for Illinois families is essential to our recovery, and at the core of what it means to come back in a strong fiscal position.
I have never pretended local and state governments don’t need new solutions. Indeed, I’ve worked to deliver them myself. In my first year as Governor, we reduced health care costs to Illinois taxpayers, paid down more than $1 billion of our bill backlog, and reduced taxes on 300,000 businesses. But I can also tell you that there’s a big difference between addressing inefficiencies and cutting vital services for the people we serve. This pandemic has severely reduced revenues to Illinois’ local and state governments, and bringing our budgets back into balance without federal help will mean carving billions of dollars from K-12 education, higher education, and public safety. It will mean slashing funding for our roads and bridges, our state parks, crime labs and anti-violence programs, childcare providers, clean water and clean air, and health care services. Literally millions of middle class, working class, and poor families in Illinois will have their lives further upended by a failure of support from the Congress and the President. And I want to again emphasize that this is not a blue state issue alone. Texas is facing its biggest budget shortfall in history, and Florida’s governor likened their budget situation to the Red Wedding scene in Game of Thrones. Similarly, cities and counties are facing massive service cuts that will have immediate effects on residents.
Faced with uncertainty over what direct support it might get from Congress — but with hope that a fraction of the trillions that went to supporting large corporations might come to states, counties and cities — the State of Illinois was forced to pass a fiscal year 2021 budget with zero general funds increases in early childhood, K-12 and higher education. We were able to provide minimal increases to health care and human services. However, this budget scenario is only affordable with nearly $5 billion in support from the federal government. Without such support, the state would have no choice but to cut funding across the board to bring the budget into balance. Setting aside mandatory payments and debt service, this could translate into cuts as much as 15% to all programs and services. This could possibly include over a billion dollars in cuts to PreK-12 schools alone, but also will lead to human services being decimated and thousands of layoffs in state and local government, colleges and universities, first responders, and among human service providers – potentially undoing many of the stimulus benefits that the federal government has worked hard to achieve. Based upon national estimates of Covid-related budget shortfalls for state and local governments, fiscal year 2022 is unlikely to look any better.
As this virus rages on, the fiscal challenges have spread just like the virus. What seemed to some like a problem only plaguing Chicago and Cook and the surrounding counties, now has severely impacted every area of our state. Positivity rates outside of Chicago have been rising at a quicker rate, and the virus’s deleterious effect on our people and our economy is still unknown. But we know that the federal, state and local governments cannot let our people or our economy down.
I do not want to overlook or understate how important the actions of Congress have been to date. Enhanced Medicaid program funding, increased unemployment benefits, and CARES dollars have been crucial to Illinois and its citizens during these unprecedented times. But just as there was massive assistance to the biggest businesses and corporations in America during this crisis – assistance that only the federal government has the power to offer – there must also be funding to replace COVID-related revenue losses for states, counties and cities that are on the front lines of helping working families and our most vulnerable residents.
I have spoken to the leaders of the Illinois General Assembly on multiple occasions about this issue, and together we stand ready to work with you on providing information and support for this undertaking. Many of you began your careers in state or local government, and I know you share my belief that state and local government provide essential front line services to citizens and power local economic activity in crucial ways. I implore you to assist all states and local governments, and especially your home state and your home counties and cities.
I thank you for your hard work and offer whatever assistance you may need as you finish your work for this congressional session.
JB Pritzker, Governor State of Illinois
*** UPDATE *** Sen. Richard Durbin…
The State of Illinois is not alone facing a serious revenue loss resulting from this pandemic. State and local governments around the country are being forced to slash budgets and cut jobs as they face record revenue losses and increased costs of fighting the virus. Senate Majority Leader McConnell’s refusal to pass a relief bill that includes desperately needed funding for state and local governments threatens the livelihoods of our teachers, EMTs, and firefighters. Will he ever feel the urgency to begin bipartisan negotiations on a bill that so many in Illinois and across the country desperately need?
* Congressional leadership…
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer released this statement following President Trump’s tweet calling on Republicans to “go for the much higher numbers” in the next COVID-19 relief package:
“We are encouraged that after months of the Senate Republicans insisting on shortchanging the massive needs of the American people, President Trump is now calling on Republicans to ‘go for the much higher numbers’ in the next coronavirus relief package.
“We look forward to hearing from the President’s negotiators that they will finally meet us halfway with a bill that is equal to the massive health and economic crises gripping our nation.
“By the end of the week, 200,000 Americans will have died from the coronavirus. The lives and livelihoods of the American people depend on Republicans abandoning their obsession with doing as little as possible while the coronavirus rages through our nation.”