The next big clash on Capitol Hill: Help for state governments

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Image by skeeze from Pixabay
more dome
Image by skeeze from Pixabay

State and federal lawmakers alike want Congress to send more cash in the next round of coronavirus legislation to aid ailing cities and states.

But some Republicans, including the president, have bristled at the idea, signaling a coming clash over the issue on Capitol Hill.

The debate comes as state and local governments around the country face massive revenue losses that threaten funding for police, fire departments, emergency responders, schools, trash collectors, food banks, libraries, museums, and civic spaces.

Early in April Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak asked state agencies to prepare for budget cuts of 4 percent in the current fiscal year, with more, and deeper cuts likely to follow. City and county governments in Nevada also will be facing budget shortfalls.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday she is considering legislation that would send as much as $1 trillion in federal funds to sustain state and local governments over the next several years.

Last week, a pair of bipartisan senators unveiled a $500 billion “stabilization fund” for states and municipalities with more than 50,000 people.

And House lawmakers introduced a proposal in early April that would send $250 billion in “stabilization funds” to cities and towns in addition to separate aid for states.

President Donald Trump questioned those efforts this week and suggested his support may hinge on state and local support for his immigration policies, according to Politico.

“Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states … and cities, in all cases Democrat run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help,” he tweeted Monday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) characterized calls for more federal aid for cities and states as a “blue-state bailout” and said last week he would be open to allowing states to file for bankruptcy.

He changed course this week, saying he would be open to such aid in exchange for legal protections for businesses and workers, Politico reported.

Nevada Democratic members of Congress lamented that passage of the most recent relief legislation last week did not include additional assistance for state, local and tribal governments.

Rep. Steven Horsford reiterated the complaint this week.

“States like Nevada, that have been the hardest hit and will now face a difficult path to recovery, should not be penalized by the Trump administration for helping to keep their families and small businesses afloat in the face of a global pandemic, the likes of which we’ve never previously encountered,” Horsford said. “It is completely unacceptable” for the Trump administration to “withhold further aid from the states and local governments that need it most in the aftermath of this unprecedented public health emergency.”

The Senate is slated to reconvene on Monday, while the U.S. House plans to return the week of May 11.

Allison Stevens
Allison Stevens is a Washington D.C. reporter for States Newsroom, a network of state-based nonprofit news outlets that includes Nevada Current.