CHICAGO — Illinois Governor JB Pritzker gave a dire warning about the potential for layoffs and drastic cuts at the state and local level if the federal government doesn’t offer more assistance Tuesday.
“This is a nightmare scenario,” Pritzker said Tuesday while announcing $220 million in grants for small businesses.
Illinois Deputy Governor Christian Mitchell and Pritzker’s budget director sent agency heads a memo urging spending restraint Tuesday.
“This morning my administration sent notice to all of our cabinet directors to prepare for the possibility of cuts of at least 5 percent for the current fiscal year,” Pritzker said.
The memo also advises agency heads to prepare for 10 percent cuts next year. The governor says the pain can be avoided if Congress and the White House strike an agreement on a coronavirus relief package.
“If we don’t receive support from the federal government for our cities and our counties – you’ve already seen challenges, I think, in our police departments and 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.”
Governor Pritzker’s current $42.9 billion spending plan signed into law in June relies heavily on federal assistance, and it authorizes borrowing up to $5 billion from a federal COVID-19 relief fund.
Pritzker said if the support doesn’t come through by the end of the month, the state will have to do something.
A spokesman for Senate GOP Leader Bill Brady reacted to word about the cuts saying:
“The reliance on federal funding that wasn’t for certain was one of many concerns Senate Republicans had with the budget. However, there is still hope that Federal funding for COVID-related issues may still be made available.”
In Washington, Democrats and Republicans insist more economic stimulus is needed but negotiations have stalled.
“I still hope we’ll be able to get there; it’s disappointing it’s taken this long, but there’s still needs,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said.
“The caucus remains unified, committed to getting something done that’s meaningful, and to remaining in town as long as that takes to happen,” Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) said.
On another front, Illinois student-athletes and their supporters continue to pressure Governor Pritzker to allow fall sports.
Every state that borders Illinois is now playing high school football, but Governor Pritzker says that has not changed his thinking because it’s not a “political decision.”
“Look, I’m not willing to sacrifice people’s lives or the health of either the children or their parents who would be affected also,” Pritzker said.