Illinois lawmakers urge for targeted use of federal tax dollars to pay off billions in debt

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Illinois state lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are looking to flex the legislature’s appropriation power on the influx of federal dollars headed to the state’s budget.

As part of the $1.9 trillion federal spending plan signed Thursday, the state is set to get more than $13 billion from federal taxpayers. Of that, $7.5 billion will go directly to the state.

One area already targeted for $3 billion in spending in on recent short-term borrowing the state took on from the Federal Reserve.

“We can basically give two-to-three week notice to the Federal Reserve that we have the funds on hand and we want to repay that debate,” Sturm said. “So we can call it all within two-to-three weeks and save ourselves quite a bit of interest costs.”

State Rep. Mike Zalewski, D-Riverside, told Sturm on Thursday the governor needs to seek appropriation authority from the legislature “before too many strategic decisions are made.”

“Because I think the legislature would like a say in appropriating money, given our role,” Zalewski said.

Lawmakers must pass an appropriation plan for the governor’s approval every year.

State Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, agreed $3 billion of that should pay down short-term borrowing, but he said the legislature needs to target the rest of the tax dollars to give back to struggling taxpayers, including businesses the state owes $5 billion in backlogged bills.

“And that we don’t look to fund new or expanded recurring programs using one-time federal revenue or we’ll find ourselves in a worse situation financially than what we were when we came into this pandemic,” Demmer said.

Demmer and Republicans urged for full accountability of the funds’ use.

“It’s really our choice, whether this is COVID relief or whether this is a bailout of a system that was flawed long before anyone ever heard of the word COVID,” Demmer said.

Lawmakers are in the process of crafting a state budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

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