coronavirus illinois

Pritzker Warns of Cuts, ‘Nightmare Scenario' If Federal Government Doesn't Step In

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As Illinois prepares to deal with the financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker warned of budget cuts and a potential "nightmare scenario."

"Until Republicans in Washington decide otherwise, middle class, working class and poor families across our state and across the nation will likely suffer from cuts to public safety, education, human services, and environmental safety," Pritzker said. "And the potential layoffs will make the economic recession worse. But the GOP leadership's decision to support big businesses, but not support working families has reached a critical point."

Pritzker said Tuesday his administration sent a notice to cabinet directors, telling them to prepare for the possibility of cuts amounting to at least 5% for the current fiscal year. The notice also urged directors to submit a potential spending outline for fiscal year 2022 that would have a 10% reduction in appropriations.

"I can promise you, that for everyone and anyone who got into public service who actually wants to serve for the public, this is a nightmare scenario," Pritzker said. "Because at the end of the day, this isn't just about local governments or state governments in Illinois. This is about support for local and state governments across the nation. This is about support for our nation's economic recovery that only the federal government can provide, just like it did for the corporate sector already, without that support our nation's schools, hospitals, universities, law enforcement, health care workers, and firefighters will pay the price and it will be a heavy price."

Pritzker couldn't say when the cuts might take place, but urged people to prepare for such moves now.

"You've already seen challenges, I think, you know, in our police departments, our fire departments across the state cities and counties," Pritzker said. "If they don't receive federal support, they won't be able to maintain their workforce. Yeah, when you include all of the cities and counties that are affected by this, we're literally talking about thousands of people who will get laid off. I can't tell you what the exact number would be."

In June, Pritzker signed into law an Illinois budget heavily reliant on federal assistance because of revenue lost to COVID-19 restrictions on businesses and social interaction.

But even short of revenue, Democrats who control the General Assembly sent the Democratic governor a $42.9 billion spending plan, 7.5% larger than the current year's outlay. It takes effect July 1.

The budget relies on billions of dollars that Illinois and other states hope come in the form of federal assistance to state balance sheets battered by COVID-19. It also authorizes borrowing up to $5 billion from a federal COVID-19 relief fund if grant funding isn't forthcoming.

Republicans objected to the plan during an abbreviated, four-day emergency session in May that stood for a full spring session's worth of work. They wanted spending cuts, but Democrats said balancing the budget with cuts would be too drastic.

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