Some elected officials in Missouri and neighboring Illinois were at odds Friday as Congress considered additional aid to states because of the coronavirus.
JEFFERSON CITY — Some elected officials in Missouri and neighboring Illinois were at odds Friday as Congress considered additional aid to states because of the coronavirus.
The divide mirrored a political split in Washington, where the Democratic-led U.S. House passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package that the Republican-led Senate seemed sure to reject.
Included in the proposal is almost $1 trillion for state and local governments, which have taken a twofold financial hit from plunging tax revenues and rising costs to combat the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease.
Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza, a Democrat, told The Associated Press that her state had a backlog of $6.5 billion of unpaid bills as of Friday that were unrelated to the coronavirus. She said Illinois has an additional projected budget hole of about $7 billion in the next fiscal year because of lost tax revenues stemming from the economic shutdown that occurred as a precaution against spreading the coronavirus.
"I'm not asking the federal government to help us make up for the mistakes of the past," Mendoza said. "But certainly, our state should not be held liable for the loss of revenues caused by COVID, and neither should any other state in the country."
"I think the federal government has a responsibility to not bail out states but definitely to make them whole for the terrible pandemic," she said.
In neighboring Missouri, however, three-fourths of the Republican state House and Senate members signed a letter Friday urging the state's congressional delegation to oppose the $3 trillion plan in the U.S. House. Their letter specifically chastised Democratic-led California, Illinois and New York for "careless tax, spend and borrow policies" and "budgetary blunders."
Among other things, Missouri GOP lawmakers pointed to Illinois' public pension system, which has $138 billion in unfunded debt.
"Multi-trillion dollar bailouts are an unacceptable solution to the financial woes of individual states," said the Missouri letter, which was coordinated by conservative state Sen. Eric Burlison.