Durbin calls Harmon’s pension pitch “unrealistic”


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — In a Capitol Connection interview, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) poured cold water on an idea Illinois Senate President Don Harmon proposed in a letter to Congress last month.

“I would just characterize his letter to me and others as ambitious,” Durbin said in the segment that aired on Sunday morning.

Among other items, Harmon’s letter requested Congress send Illinois $10 billion in pension relief for state retirement systems.

“He was looking for federal assistance at a level at which is unrealistic, and I am sorry that he made reference to our pension challenge,” Durbin said. “Many states face a pension challenge. We should not be looking to the federal government at this moment or expecting in the future that it’s going to step in and fix these problems. What we need to do is ask for help for not only our state, but also local units of government, for their actual budget losses that are associated with this current national emergency. That, I think, is realistic.”

Harmon’s letter also asked Congress for $9.6 billion in direct payments to local cities and towns in Illinois who saw their tax revenue streams dry up during the Coronavirus closures.

Senator Durbin suggested states could be compensated for costs or losses suffered due to COVID-19.

“I think associating the spending with the challenge we’re facing is fair and realistic,” Durbin said, “and to say if there’s additional expenses or lost revenue associated with that, that the states can make proof of it and collect.”

He would not, however, support the idea some have suggested to make federal Coronavirus relief funding contingent on unrelated policy positions, such as ‘sanctuary state’ laws.

“God forbid we get into a political battle over this,” Durbin said. “There are so many issues that could come up, whether it’s guns, or choice, or immigration, and the whole thing will fall apart. We have stayed away from that.

“We can keep this bipartisan and we should, if we don’t try to introduce other issues and fights as part of it.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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