‘This Is About Public Safety’: Why Sen. Casey Supports More Coronavirus Aid for States

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By Emiene Wright

May 1, 2020

Meanwhile, Sen. Toomey said he has “very serious doubts of whether we should step in and provide massive amounts of money to state and local government.”

Pennsylvanian Sens. Bob Casey and Pat Toomey are clashing as they head back to Washington to decide whether to push for more aid to cities and states staggering under the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

State and local governments have taken revenue hits that endanger funding for police, fire departments, schools, libraries, and other public institutions. Gov. Tom Wolf said the state could see up to $5 billion in deficits. Sen. Casey, a Democrat, wants to send a $500 billion aid package to state and local governments to help them balance their budgets. 

“This isn’t about some budget number,” he said in an interview. “This is about public safety.” 

Toomey, on the other hand, opposes the bailouts. The Republican junior senator is more focused on evaluating the current programs to “see what’s working and what our needs really are,” his spokesperson said.

“Government spending can never be a substitute for a functioning economy that supplies the tax revenue states and municipalities really need,” Toomey said.

RELATED: Wolf Warns the State Deficit Could Be as High as $5 Billion Due to Pandemic

It was also reported Thursday that the Democrat-led House is considering a $1 trillion coronavirus spending bill, twice the amount that was previously discussed, as the National Governors Association and local municipal governments each requested around $500 billion. Senate Republicans are lining up against it as Congress prepares to deliberate on the next phase of the coronavirus response.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly vowed to fight more funding for state and local governments without stipulations barring legal action against businesses and healthcare workers. Republicans are not interested in borrowing from future generations to bail out states for “bad decisions they’ve made in the past unrelated to the coronavirus,” McConnell said. He has also suggested that states should file for bankruptcy rather than receive additional federal funds.

Last week, Toomey also told reporters he was “open to the idea of allowing state bankruptcy” as McConnell had suggested.

“I have very serious doubts of whether we should step in and provide massive amounts of money to state and local government, that’s not anything we would do lightly,” Toomey said.

The $2 trillion CARES Act Congress passed in late March earmarked $150 billion to states, but  only for use in coronavirus response, which left municipalities with budgetary shortfalls in the hole. 

Democrats insist that state and local governments’ budgetary problems stem from the loss of sales tax revenue, payments for unemployment claims and other needs that are tied to the pandemic.

“This is strictly about the coronavirus. It is about what your outlays are for the virus and what your revenue loss is on that,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said. “We’re not going to be able to cover all of it, but to the extent that we can keep the states and localities sustainable, that’s our goal.”

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