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Koch-backed group petitions Congress to say no to state bailouts

Koch-backed group petitions Congress to say no to state bailouts
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The political arm for the network of groups led by Charles Koch sent a letter to congressional leaders in both parties on Thursday asking them to reject requests from states seeking federal money for budgetary shortfalls that are unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We should be helping the people who are hurting, not bailing out politicians for irresponsible decisions they made prior to this crisis,” wrote Brent Gardner, the chief government affairs officer for Americans for Prosperity. “But as we’ve seen before, lawmakers are using this crisis to jockey for handouts to pay for their past mistakes in the name of helping those who have been hit hardest.”

The letter, which was also signed by leaders of the Koch-backed groups Concerned Veterans for America and The Libre initiative, was sent to Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden backs 0B compromise coronavirus stimulus bill US records over 14 million coronavirus cases On The Money: COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks | Slowing job growth raises fears of double-dip recession | Biden officially announces Brian Deese as top economic adviser MORE (D-Calif.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHouse GOP uses procedural tool to protest proxy voting The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Capital One - Tensions rise with Trump, Barr Watch live: McCarthy holds news briefing MORE (R-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden backs 0B compromise coronavirus stimulus bill US records over 14 million coronavirus cases On The Money: COVID-19 relief picks up steam as McConnell, Pelosi hold talks | Slowing job growth raises fears of double-dip recession | Biden officially announces Brian Deese as top economic adviser MORE (R-Ky.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerPelosi, Schumer endorse 8 billion plan as basis for stimulus talks Funding bill hits snag as shutdown deadline looms Trump supporters could hand Senate control to Democrats MORE (D-N.Y.).

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In addition to the letter, AFP will run digital ads linking to a petition and encourage its activists to reach out to Congress on the issue. AFP President Tim Phillips will discuss the matter with Sens. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonWatch live: Senate panel holds Russia investigation hearing Republican frustration builds over Cabinet picks Grassley returns to Capitol after having coronavirus MORE (R-Wis.) at a tele-town hall event on Thursday night.

AFP is making the case to Congress that some states seeking bailout money are using the coronavirus as an excuse to address “chronic structural fiscal problems” that existed before the outbreak.

“States that have spent lavishly, borrowed excessively, and ignored looming pension debt should not use the current crisis to shift the cost of those bad policy decisions onto taxpayers in other states,” the letter states.

“Nor should they exploit firefighters, teachers, and other state workers to justify these bailouts. Public servants should not be treated as pawns in these negotiations. States should honor their obligations to those workers by making them priorities for the funds they have and have already received. They should not be exploiting them as bargaining chips to seek massive federal bailouts.” 

The letter points specifically to Illinois, which has received nearly $5 billion in federal funds this year through legislation passed by Congress to shore up coronavirus-related budgetary shortfalls.

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Illinois officials have been criticized for requesting an additional $41 billion from the federal government to address a gap in the state’s pension system.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE has mused about providing additional relief to the states but has said that the money must only be allocated for shortfalls that stem directly from the coronavirus shutdown.

“I think there's a big difference with a state that lost money because of COVID and a state that's been run very badly for 25 years,” Trump said last week. 

McConnell has been cold to the idea of additional money for state governments, provoking a firestorm of controversy last week for saying that states facing budget shortfalls amid the pandemic should be able to “use the bankruptcy route.”

“Taxpayers in one state should not be on the hook for politicians’ inability to make responsible decisions in another state prior to the COVID crisis,” the AFP letter states. “Our system of government reserves certain authority and accountability to each of the states. Bailouts are a clear example of the federal government overstepping its authority. It is incumbent on states to govern wisely and independently, both reaping the rewards of smart policy, and addressing the consequences of bad.”