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Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads

Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads
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The political arm for the network of groups led by Charles Koch is launching a new series of ads urging senators to oppose “bailouts” for states seeking money for budgetary shortfalls in the next coronavirus relief package.

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) will put six figures behind the digital ads, which will run nationally on social media platforms. The aim is to pressure lawmakers against including provisions in a potential spending package that AFP views as wasteful, such as unemployment insurance extensions.

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Congressional leaders say they want to pass a fifth coronavirus relief bill, but there are huge policy differences between the two parties and only a short window to get something done before attention turns to funding the government in September.

AFP sent a letter to lawmakers in April urging them to reject state requests for money that is 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 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.

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.

“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,” Gardner wrote.

“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.”