Chicago Tribune condemns state’s ‘rotten’ request for $41.6B fed bailout – what McConnell warned about

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The Chicago Tribune’s editorial board accused the Illinois Senate of “financial mismanagement” and roundly condemned its “shameless and dishonest” request for a more than $40 billion bailout from the federal government.

While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has come under fire for saying he is not in favor of bailing out states with coronavirus emergency funds for problems they created themselves, the Tribune’s editors seemed to agree, writing in a piece published Friday that requests like that from the Illinois Senate are probably behind McConnell’s view.

(Image: WCIA screenshot)

The Tribune’s editorial board called out Illinois Senate President Don Harmon for his request for another $41 billion in coronavirus-related stimulus assistance.

“Let’s stipulate that Don Harmon, rookie president of the Illinois Senate, laid a rotten egg with his recent letter asking members of Congress to give Illinois a $40.6 billion bequest,” they wrote of the Democrat.

“Assorted politicians and pundits have scorned Harmon’s inclusion of a $10 billion pension bailout, as if a sudden pandemic created a pension crisis that, in fact, Harmon and his fellow Springfield lawmakers spent decades creating,” the editorial board continued. “We called Harmon’s request shameless and dishonest. His ‘ask’ was roundly criticized and, we would bet, part of the reason Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rejected the idea of state bailouts in a recent radio interview.”

McConnell sparked a firestorm this week with his comments on states awaiting federal assistance.

“I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route,” McConnell said on the “The Hugh Hewitt Show,” adding that there was “no good reason for it not to be available.”

“My guess is their first choice would be for the federal government to borrow money from future generations to send it down to them now so they don’t have to do that. That’s not something I’m going to be in favor of,” the Kentucky Republican added.

Senators “are not interested in revenue replacement for state governments,” McConnell later told “Bill Hemmer Reports,” adding that “we are not interested in solving their pension problems and all these other things that they would like for us to finance.”

The Tribune’s editors agreed, writing that “taxpayers across the country should not be responsible for Illinois’ financial mismanagement and particularly its unfunded pension liabilities.”

“It also helped expose Illinois Democrats’ agenda for 2020. While asking for a federal bailout, they have shown no movement toward cutting spending or removing from the November ballot a constitutional amendment that eventually will mean higher income taxes for millions of Illinois taxpayers,” the board continued.

Illinois Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker was also called out for offering “no solutions” to his proposed state budgets, and was accused of just waiting “for money from the feds — from federal taxpayers.”

“Pritzker should be re-examining expenses and payroll and weighing furloughs for state workers. He should be negotiating with the state’s labor unions to pull back, or at least delay, pay increases that during a pandemic of mass unemployment are scheduled to ship hundreds of millions of dollars in raises to workers who largely are staying home,” the editorial stated.

(Image: Fox 2 screenshot)

“Instead, there continues to be no appetite for reducing spending. Only asking for more money from taxpayers. … The coronavirus will be the reason, we expect, Pritzker will make an even harder push for his graduated income tax. Revenue losses have been deep and painful,” the piece continued.

“But voters already had many, many reasons to reject the pressure of sending more money to Springfield through a graduated income tax. Harmon’s letter — a brazen, twisted plea for a bailout with no admitted responsibility on the part of politicians who got us here — should give voters another one,” the Tribune’s editors contended.

In a separate editorial last week, the board slammed Harmon for his “shameless, dishonest” request for federal funds.

“What is beyond galling is using the coronavirus as an excuse,” they wrote.

“Even by this state’s low standards, asking federal taxpayers from California to North Carolina, from North Dakota to Texas — farmers, small business owners, teachers, nurses, bus drivers, bartenders- to help dig Illinois out of its pre-coronavirus, self-inflicted, financial hellhole is astonishingly brazen,” the Chicago Tribune editorial board added.

“Every member of Congress should carefully scrutinize pleas from states whose unbalanced budgets, embarrassing credit ratings and vastly underfunded pension systems predated the virus outbreak,” they said.

Frieda Powers

Senior Staff Writer
[email protected]

Originally from New York, Powers graduated from New York University and eventually made her way to sunny South Florida where she has been writing for the BizPacReview team since 2015.
Frieda Powers

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