Congress returns next week. Expect sparks to fly in the debate over whether Washington should provide direct aid to state governments.
Democrats are advocating direct aid to state and local governments in the potential fifth coronavirus bill, which will be on the table when Congress returns on May 4 after taking a break in the midst of a dire crisis, an act of utter irresponsibility.
The move has been opposed by the White House. In a tweet, President Trump wrote:
“Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help? …”
Extensive caution should be taken that funds meant to address problems resulting from COVID are not waylaid for political gain or to further a leftist agenda. These funds, rather confusingly also known as “Phase Four” monies, are being requested by Democrats to address issues that in part have nothing to do with the current crisis. The most vocal advocate has been New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Profligate spending by some states unrelated to COVID should not burden the national budget and should not be bailed out under the thin guise of addressing the coronavirus. Taxpayers' dollars abused by politicians seeking to buy votes with overly generous spending, as well as funds questionably appropriated to pay for the support of programs such as supporting illegal aliens are inappropriate topics for coronavirus relief monies.
Jurisdictions like Andrew Cuomo’s New York provide generous support for illegal aliens. A 2017 study by The Federation for American Immigration Reform notes that illegal immigrants have cost state and local governments a staggering $88,992,981,032, which is in addition to the $45,870,474,332 spent by the federal government on them. It should be understood that this cost is what remains AFTER deducting taxes paid by illegals.
New York is, of course, not alone in questionable spending, but as Governor Cuomo has risen to national fame during the COVID crisis, and is a leading advocate for direct federal aid, it is useful to use his state as an example. Last November, before the financial impact of the coronavirus hit, a local newspaper, the Democrat and Chronicle reported: “New York faces budget deficits between $6 billion and $8 billion over the next three years.”
A 2018 Citizens Budget Commission review noted that “Growth in the second [Cuomo] term accelerated rapidly, growing 18.3 percent compared to 6.7 percent in the first term. If the budget had grown at the rate of inflation, it would have been $155 billion in fiscal year 2019, or 14.9 percent larger than fiscal year 2011.”
In addition to over-the top official spending, vast sums misappropriated by crooked politicians have resulted in severe state and local shortfalls which should not be masked by federal dollars.
The administration of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, one of the nation’s most left wing “progressive” politicians, is engaged in scandals of shocking dimensions. The Mayor’s wife, Chirlane McCray whom de Blasio refers to as his "Co-Mayor,” cannot account for $1.8 billion she was entrusted with for a mental health program. Rather than having her fade into the background in disgrace, the Mayor has put her in charge of a key post-COVID efforts to re-open the city for business.
Expect blatant emotional and political blackmail to be used as wedges to gain support for direct aid to even the most corrupt states and localities. Governors and mayors will allege that without the federal dollars, pensions for retirees and programs for the poor will be jeopardized. This will be a tacit admission that those COVID dollars will be spent inappropriately. They will also claim that minorities will suffer worst, and levy the usual charges of racism against anyone seeking to determine exactly where taxpayer dollars are going.
Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy and Government