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America First national spokesperson Steve Cortes reacted on “Fox & Friends Weekend” to Illinois Senate Democrats asking for a whopping $41.6 billion from the federal government in the next coronavirus relief plan, including $10 billion for a pension fund bailout, calling the request “shameless.”
“The politicians that are ruining this city of Chicago and the state of Illinois, they believe in this moment of crisis they found a beard, a way to mask what has been a financial disaster in the state, included in that 40 billion,” Cortes said on Sunday. “They asked for $10 billion just to bail out our unfunded pension obligations. Those existed, of course, well before the virus ever hit in the United States, including Illinois.”
Cortes called attention to the fact that Illinois has one of the nation’s worst-funded pension systems.
In a letter to U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth as well as Illinois’ congressional delegation, Senate President Don Harmon requested the help, which included more than $9 billion for local governments and $15 billion in block grant funding to fill budget gaps over three years.
Harmon’s request was not endorsed by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
The Illinois Republican Party blasted the effort on social media as “brazenly using a global pandemic as an excuse” to fix longtime financial issues.
On Sunday, Cortes explained the “the real issue,” which he said is “the spending by the state of Illinois, particularly when it comes to employees and pension obligations.”
He went on to say that “reckless spending” in the state is “what has made Illinois into America's Greece with all of the debt and all the financial woes, but without the sunshine and the islands, unfortunately.”
Cortes also reacted to the fact that the editorial board of the Chicago Tribune has repeatedly slammed the Illinois Senate's request for the federal bailout.
"What is beyond galling is using the coronavirus as an excuse," the board wrote last Sunday.
“I think it’s clear that these Democrat-led states, they are banking on, they are hoping for, a federal bailout,” Cortes said on Sunday. “They believe that if Donald Trump were to lose in November, which is not going to happen, but they believe that if that were to happen, if they could potentially flip the Senate, that the federal government would effectively federalize all of these problems from the profligate blue states.”
“None of that is going to happen,” he continued. “What will happen and should happen, is what leader McConnell said when he articulated that we really need to change federal laws and federal policies to allow bankruptcy for states like Illinois. That’s the only reasonable solution.”
Cortes was referencing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s suggestion last week that states like Illinois could file for bankruptcy to get out from under heavy public employee pension debt. That suggestion was rejected by Pritzker.
According to the U.S. Constitution, states are prevented from filing bankruptcy.
McConnell, R-Ky., brought up the idea on Hugh Hewitt’s syndicated radio show while discussing his restraint about additional aid to state and local governments to deal with reduced revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’re going to push the pause button here because I think this whole business of additional assistance for state and local governments needs to be thoroughly evaluated,” McConnell said. ”There’s not going to be any desire on the Republican side to bail out state pensions by borrowing money from future generations.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has said federal dollars for state and local governments should be part of a coronavirus relief package. Republicans resisted the Democratic effort to have the aid in the last relief package.
Pritzker said during a news conference last week that he is hopeful senators realize state and local governments “deserve and need additional support.”
Fox News’ Joseph Wulfsohn and The Associated Press contributed to this report.