Gov. J.B. Pritzker expressed confidence Wednesday that Congress will put together another coronavirus pandemic relief package despite President Donald Trump's instructions to shut down talks until after the election.
The budget the Democratic governor signed last spring left a $5 billion gap for what lawmakers hoped by late summer would be a second federal stimulus grant. But Congress has been unable to agree on a package for states to relieve the economic damage done by the highly contagious coronavirus, which has slowed or shut down commerce nationally.
Trump was hospitalized last weekend and treated with an experimental drug and steroids for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. When he was released, he told congressional leaders to stand down on pandemic package talks until after the Nov. 3 election. Then on Wednesday, he reversed course and asked that work continue on parts of the plan, including a second round of $1,200 direct payments to most Americans.
Pritzker said the need is too great for Congress to disregard it.
"Every state is going to need support from the federal government even though the president has apparently thrown the talks into disarray now that he’s on a cocktail of steroids coming out of the hospital," Pritzker said. “We are going to need this kind of support and I do believe that whoever wins the election, the Congress or the president are going to have to step up to the plate.”
The state public health director, Dr. Ngoze Ezike, reported 2,630 new cases of COVID-19, with 42 additional deaths. That brings the statewide totals to of 307,641 cases, including 8,878 deaths.
The budget law allows for borrowing up to $5 billion if congressional aid doesn't come through. When asked what cuts he might have to make if Congress fails to help, Pritzker made a push for a constitutional amendment on the election ballot that would change the way Illinois collects income tax, from an across-the-board rate of 4.95% to a graduated structure that increases to as high as 7.99% for the wealthiest taxpayers. The governor calls it the “fair tax.”
He claimed conservatives who oppose the tax amendment and even federal help would force devastating cuts to public safety and education.
“The challenge, when you have such a large number to consider, is how to do the least amount of damage,” Pritzker said. “Unfortunately, people who are opposed to the ‘fair tax' and, seems like the very same people who are opposed to having the federal government provide any funding ... are forcing us into a situation to make deep and lasting, tremendously damaging cuts.”