This work has made a difference for many Illinoisans, but faced with a continuing global pandemic, we knew that more needed to be done.
That’s why we were proud to support federal efforts to help every state in the country build back better. Last month U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth and the Democrats in Congress passed President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, providing Illinoisans with extended unemployment benefits and help for housing, child care and health care. It also provides the state of Illinois with $7.5 billion in one-time support to help put the pandemic behind us.
As the governor and the General Assembly work together to provide COVID relief to all Illinoisans, we also must repair the damage COVID has done to our state’s finances and get Illinois back on track toward fiscal responsibility.
First, we believe it’s important to pay the remaining $2.5 billion of COVID-related Federal Reserve short term debt, and the unpaid bills and borrowing incurred over the last year that allowed us to protect working families from devastating cuts to our public schools, health care and human services, keeping the lights on in the darkest days of the pandemic. In Illinois, we’re all too familiar with how debt and accrued interest can cripple a state budget. Paying off these bills immediately will avoid interest charges and put us in a stronger fiscal position for the future.
Second, at the heart of our agenda are the working families and everyday Illinoisans who have too often in the past been left out and left behind. That’s why the ARP funds must also be dedicated to spurring job creation and igniting economic growth. Putting people to work and growing our state’s economy means accelerating our infrastructure plans for rebuilding Illinois, supporting small businesses—our greatest job creators—and making sure our educational and health care institutions thrive.
Over the last year, fiscal discipline and a science-based pandemic response has meant that our state economy and fiscal situation are stronger than expected. In fact, over the last month, investors and credit rating agencies have taken a more positive view of Illinois’ fiscal future. That’s an important signal to workers and job creators that Illinois is on a good path toward a firm fiscal foundation.
We need to stay the course by managing our state and federal funds responsibly and we are committed to doing so.
J.B. Pritzker is governor of the state of Illinois. Don Harmon is Illinois Senate president. Emanuel “Chris” Welch is speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives.
Originally Appeared On: https://www.chicagobusiness.com/opinion/heres-whats-our-agenda-general-assembly-gets-back-work