U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) today released the following statements after the Senate passed President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which will provide emergency relief to Illinois:
To avoid dramatic budget cuts at every level of government:
Estimated $13.2 billion in state and local funding for Illinois including $1.8 billion for Chicago.
The bill provides an estimated $7.5 billion for the state and $5.5 billion for Illinois locals ($2.3 billion for counties; $2.4 billion for larger cities; $681 million for smaller municipalities).
Multiemployer Pension Relief:
By prolonging the solvency of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), more than 100,000 Illinoisans will have their hard-earned pension benefits preserved
In a major victory for America’s counties, the State and Local Coronavirus Fiscal Recovery Funds legislation, part of the American Rescue Plan Act was passed by the U.S. Senate on March 6. The bill, which now heads back to the U.S. House of Representatives for final consideration, includes $65.1 billion in direct, flexible aid to every county in America, as well as other crucial investments in local communities.
The Senate version amends the House-adopted bill in several important ways:
The U.S. Department of Treasury would still oversee and administer these payments to state and local governments, and every county would be eligible to receive a direct allocation from Treasury. States, municipalities, and counties would now receive funds in two tranches – both tranches would provide 50 percent of the entity’s total allocation. In cases where a state has a very high level of unemployed individuals, these states may receive both tranches at the same time.
In order to receive a payment either under the first or second tranche, local governments must provide the U.S. Treasury with a certification signed by an authorized officer. The U.S. Treasury is required to pay first tranche to counties not later than 60-days after enactment, and second payment no earlier than 12 months after the first payment.
Republican congressman Peter Meijer has said that the American Rescue Plan is full of waste and has touted his own proposal to cut the price tag of the stimulus package in half while increasing payments to individuals.
The Michigan freshman representative has been pushing his own alternative to the $1.9.trillion relief package with his alternative Direct Dollars Over Government Excess, called the $DOGE Plan.
He told Fox Business that his proposal, whose title is a nod to the meme turned cryptocurrency, would put more money in the pockets of Americans and give less to individual states.
Supporters of the bill — including numerous Republican mayors — say the answer is a clear “yes.” They argue that a number of states, particularly those that rely on service industries and tourism, have seen steep revenue declines, and local governments are facing deeper financial strains as they struggle to expand services with fewer employees.
“Many of our cities have furloughed workers, shrunk their workforce through attrition, cancelled police and fire recruitment efforts, and frozen capital budgets that build community infrastructure — all while absorbing additional expenses to respond to COVID, delivering essential services and reaching out to our communities that have been disproportionately affected,” a bipartisan group of Ohio mayors wrote to federal lawmakers last month.
But congressional Republicans, who also opposed including more state and local aid in the coronavirus stimulus bill approved in December, largely have been unpersuaded. They point to data showing some states outpacing their revenue projections, and argue that sending more financial help to states would unfairly reward those that locked down their economies instead of lifting restrictions on businesses.
“If the point of the stimulus bill is to just prevent state and local governments from having to cut back on spending or having to implement tax increases, then the $350 billion is way too much,” said Dan White, director of public-sector research at Moody’s Analytics. “Is that money better spent directly in terms of federal fiscal stimulus, as opposed to it flowing through states? If you use that money for PPP or for enhanced unemployment insurance, does it have a bigger bang for the buck in terms of economic stimulus?”
Moody’s Analytics now pegs the state and local budget shortfall at $61 billion when taking existing federal help into account. The left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently estimated that the budget gap is around $225 billion, but it noted that that doesn’t include states’ and localities’ costs to continue fighting the virus or helping their struggling residents and businesses.
Lawmakers have moved to include in the bill an unrelated $86 billion bailout for bankrupt union pension plans.
And once they’ve done that, it’s going to be even harder for them to argue that they shouldn’t bail out the stricken Social Security trust fund that is actually their responsibility. Social Security’s deficit: $16.8 trillion, or about $50,000 for every person in America.
On the other hand, if Congress tries to weasel out of fully funding Social Security in a few years’ time, this rescue of private sector union pensions is going to look like an outrage.
The Senate voted 50-49 to pass Democrats’ $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package on Saturday, after a marathon session of voting on various amendments.
The bill was passed via budget reconciliation rules, which allow a simple majority to approve legislation in place of a filibuster-proof 60-vote threshold. The Biden administration had been pushing to pass the legislation before the week of March 14, when pandemic-related federal unemployment assistance is scheduled to expire.
The vote occurred entirely on partisan lines. Senator Dan Sullivan (R., Alaska) returned to his home state on Friday to attend the funeral of his father-in-law, meaning Vice President Kamala Harris did not need to cast a tie-breaking vote.
Biden’s stimulus is not the stuff of economic revolution—it’s a mix of common sense and keeping the lights on. And the fundamental thinking behind the stimulus approach reflects a continuation of neoliberal policies of the past 40 years; instead of advancing broader social programs that could uplift the population, the solutions are predicated on improving individual purchasing power and family circumstances. Such a vision of society as a collection of enterprising individuals is a hallmark of the neoliberal policy formula—which, as the stimulus bill is about to make clear, is still prevalent within the Democratic and the Republican parties. This attention to individual purchasing power promises to be the basis for bipartisan agreement over the next four years.
The reality is that social programs on health care and education, and a new era of labor and banking regulation, would put the wider society on sounder feet than a check for $1,400.
Now, you can say that they are just about to add $2 trillion to the federal debt, so what’s $2 trillion more? (and yes, people will be saying that – we shall see how much that money printer can go BRRRRRR)
In my own opinion, the standard measures for DB pension shortfalls greatly underestimate the cash flows needed, given this time of extremely low interest rates. But still, let’s pretend.
The public pension bailout would be at least 20 times the amount of a MEP bailout. Just because you bailout a set of pensions that would have pulled down a federal guarantee fund (the PBGC) does not mean you’re going to bailout other pensions that are much bigger and that you never guaranteed in the first place.
A sizable portion, about $500 billion, is a bailout of state and local governments that for the most part do not need one. While state tax revenues took a small hit from the pandemic and associated economic lockdowns, the damage is far smaller than was once feared. States should handle their own finances.
But it’s not just a bailout; it’s a bailout in which the funding is allocated based on the size of each state’s unemployed population. In other words, states that imposed draconian and unnecessary economic lockdowns during the past year are going to get a larger share of the federal cash than states that managed to balance public health needs and the economy—an arrangement that New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu rightly calls “outrageous.”