Coronavirus bailouts must have requirements to ensure blue states finally reform

Coronavirus shouldn’t mean a handout with no strings attached but an opportunity to force real reforms

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During this time of constant technological and medical advancements, we often fall into the trap of believing that we are more invincible today than before. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed for each of us just how baseless that perception is, and how vulnerable we truly are.

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The virus has exposed our physical vulnerabilities. It has laid bare our financial vulnerabilities as well.

What the virus should expose perhaps most of all is how government’s massive costs have made us weaker in the face of this unseen threat.

The convergence of a public health crisis, economic uncertainty, mental health implications and other societal impacts is, according to New York Governor Cuomo, “a toxic mix.” He’s right, but now is a time for us to take that kind of high-powered perception and direct it toward government.

Americans have been asked to take greater personal responsibility, to make changes to their routines and alter their lifestyles for the greater good. We need to demand that our government do the same. It’s an opportunity that if ignored will exacerbate a known condition that weakens both people and our nation.

Coronavirus shouldn’t mean a handout with no strings attached but an opportunity to force real reforms.

The next big fight in Washington will be billions for bailouts or “aid” to primarily blue states who want unrestricted taxpayer funds to make up for lost revenue and increased expenses presumably due to the virus.

These bailouts must have strings attached to ensure states finally reform programs that will make them more affordable for residents, bring them into compliance with federal law and more attractive for American businesses.

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New York is a perfect example, though both Cuomo and Democrat Socialist Mayor Bill de Blasio would strongly disagree.

Combined, they want more than $20 billion in taxpayer money following COVID19. New York State’s government came into 2020 with a $6 billion budget deficit.

Since the camera-happy Cuomo has taken office, he’s increased the size of the state budget by more than $40 billion, refusing to reform the state’s bloated Medicaid system, underperforming education system and regulations governing public employee contracts.

In New York, two public employee unions wield enormous influence over the governor and the Democratic Party that prevent fiscal reforms- the State Teacher’s Union (and its NYC-affiliate) and the healthcare workers’ union, 1199SEIU.

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These two groups alone, spend millions each election cycle supporting largely Democrat candidates with mail, television ads and voter mobilization efforts.

Consequently, budgets balloon year after year, pensions and other benefits are not reformed and the costs are passed down to taxpayers who are fleeing the state for more affordable places.

In New York City, de Blasio has spent much of his two terms throwing money at everything from education to public housing to homelessness programs and benefits for illegal immigrants – without demonstrating any return on investment.

City spending is up more than 30 percent since he took office with the per household cost for the city’s debt at more than $80,000 as of 2019. This year, the mayor proposed a striking $95 billion budget. He’s also added more than 30,000 new public employees to the payroll, which will increase benefits obligations for decades to come.

In Illinois, the failure of state government to reform its pension system has left the beleaguered Land of Lincoln with a more than $240 billion pension shortfall, as of late last year.

For years, the government in President Obama’s home state has refused to reform the system, attempting repeatedly to tax its way out of its fiscal problems.

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Democrat Governor J.B. Pritzker proposed 19 new taxes and tax hikes last year alone. His 2021 budget proposal increased spending by $2 billion.

His budget wouldn’t balance even with a new slate of proposed income tax hikes. Illinois’ credit rating is the lowest of any state in the nation.

In California, which has more than $230 billion in public pension debt, the budgetary situation is marked less by deficits and more by policies that are making the state unaffordable.

Governor Gavin Newsom, like his colleague Gov. Cuomo, has been dealing with an exodus of millions of people who can no longer afford the state’s high-cost, high-tax environment. Still, just as in New York, no budgetary, pension or union contract reforms are on the table.

California, like New York and other Blue States, forces taxpayers to pay for programs that encourage illegal immigration and abortion services.

In the Golden State, the Department of Health Care Services, Medi-Cal, provides abortions “regardless of the gestational age of the fetus” and does not require medical justification or authorization.

California’s taxpayers also foot the bill for billions each year in services for its Sanctuary State policy.

It’s high time these states and others think about the burden they place on middle-class and lower-income taxpayers due to their history of giveaways, fiscal gimmicks, kicking the can and being controlled by powerful public employee unions.

COVID-19 shouldn’t mean a handout with no strings attached but an opportunity to force real reforms to ensure longer-term sustainability and reduced taxpayer abuse. Now is not a time for business as usual.

Tom Basile is a columnist and commentator and the author of "Let it Sink In: the Decade of Obama and Trump" and "Tough Sell: Fighting the Media War in Iraq."

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