U.S. Sen. Todd Young said Thursday that states should limit their use of federal coronavirus aid to alleviating damage from the disease – and he suggested Indiana can tap its budget surplus for what is “the rainiest of days.”
Congress since early March has approved nearly $2.8 trillion for virus relief. Young, R-Ind., said the amount has included almost $250 billion for state, local and tribal governments and that further federal assistance should be restricted to “unmet needs that are directly related to the coronavirus.”
“What I do not want is this to turn into a bailout of those states and local governments who have been fiscally profligate over the years,” Young said during a video conference call with news media. “What I don't want is for the people of Indiana to have to pay the bills, to put it pointedly, of the people of Illinois for hiring people at the state level and local level of government who for years have spent well outside of their means.”
He cited a request for $40 billion in additional federal virus aid by the Illinois Senate president. A quarter of the money would bolster unfunded pension liabilities for state employees, which Young said amounted to a “crass” attempt “to try and backfill some of the overpromising their elected officials have made over the years.”
He then called attention to Indiana reserves of $2.3 billion in what is known as the Rainy Day Fund. “There's been a lot of public debate over the years about our Rainy Day Fund and criticism of some of our leaders who were reluctant to dip into that for different priorities. I would say this is the rainiest of days, and Indiana is ready,” he said.
House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, said in late March that the state could deplete its reserves by year's end because the COVID-19 pandemic is increasing government expenses while depressing tax revenue. At the time, the state also had $850 million in its unemployment insurance trust fund, but new claims for jobless benefits have soared since then.
Young later Thursday announced that Indiana will receive $11.5 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to increase coronavirus testing and surveillance. The money is from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
During the conference call, Young said testing “is ramping up, as I think all public health officials and our elected officials are acknowledging those trendlines need to continue.” The latest phase of federal virus relief, approved Tuesday by the Senate and Thursday by the House, will spend $36 billion more for testing, Young said.