Members of Wisconsin’s Republican legislative majority are asking the state’s congressional delegation to oppose using any federal coronavirus relief package money to help bail out Illinois and other states with a history of “reckless budgeting.”
The letter, sent Friday by 43 GOP lawmakers to Wisconsin’s two U.S. senators and seven House members, acknowledged states and the nation are facing “unprecedented challenges” dealing with COVID-19.
“These responses to the disease have led to drastic changes in budget projections for states around the country: sales tax collections are down, income tax deadlines have been extended, unemployment rates are at historic levels and more businesses are permanently closing every day,” the letter said.
“That being said, Wisconsin has spent eight years making the tough choices to get our fiscal house in order,” the letter said. “We do know that our neighbors to the south have spent decades spending and borrowing recklessly.”
The letter comes as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi prepares a Democratic version of a new coronavirus relief package to be considered as early as Friday. She has said any new package must include funding for state and local governments to support first-responder payrolls and deal with revenue shortfalls as a result of the pandemic.
Pelosi has said she is weighing requests of about $1 trillion in aid while the National Governors Association has sought $500 billion. But the White House and Republicans who control the Senate have sought a pause on new relief until currently authorized aid funds make their way through the pipeline.
The letter from Wisconsin Republicans, first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, references Illinois’ worst in the nation $138 billion public employee pension debt as well as a recent letter Illinois Senate President Don Harmon of Oak Park sent to the state’s congressional delegation seeking at least $41 billion in federal aid, including $10 billion to help stabilize the pension system.
“After years of failing to fund their overly generous pension system, Illinois is already asking for the federal government to bail them out of these series of poor financial decisions,” the letter said.
“Wisconsin taxpayers should not be responsible for funding bailouts for irresponsible states across the country like Illinois, New York and California. Please stand with Wisconsin taxpayers and reject the multi-trillion dollar bailouts being considered by Congress,” it said.
Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois has distanced himself from Harmon’s request and said federal funding he is seeking would be tied to the effects of the coronavirus and support to deal with it.
The 43 lawmakers who signed the letter are among the 82 Republican lawmakers who serve in the Wisconsin state Senate and Assembly.
Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services previously issued guidance for Illinois residents and others who have a seasonal or second home in the state, urging them not to travel or face 14 days of self-quarantine. “You should bring your own groceries and essentials as self-quarantine does not permit shopping at local stores for supplies,” the agency said.
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