FILE - Rep. Bill Foster

Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill., speaks as Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar testifies to the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. 

(The Center Square) – Despite being the highest taxed state in the nation, financially strapped Illinois is set to get more than $10 billion in federal tax dollars from the $1.9 trillion spending bill that passed the U.S. House Wednesday.

Illinois’ Democratic leaders cheered the passage of the bill.

“We’ve delivered on our promise to provide additional relief to the American people and resources to help defeat this pandemic,” said U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville. “Additionally, this package gets money into the pockets of hard-working Americans who have been struggling to make ends meet during this economic crisis, and it provides additional support for small businesses that have struggled to keep the doors open. Simply put, the American Rescue Plan delivers the resources and relief our communities need.”

Republicans were critical.

“I have great concerns that the billions of dollars the State of Illinois will receive under this bill will encourage Governor Pritzker and Democrats in the General Assembly to again kick the can on the tough budget decisions that need to be made to address our state’s longstanding fiscal problems,” said U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville. “As it’s currently written, this legislation allows state lawmakers to use this federal money with few restrictions. Given the Democrats’ track record in Springfield, I don’t think that’s a responsible use of taxpayer dollars, particularly during a pandemic.”

Illinois’ state budget is set to get $7.5 billion.

Comptroller Susana Mendoza said $3 billion of that will pay down short-term borrowing the state took on.

During an Illinois House committee hearing Wednesday, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s budget director Alexis Sturm said they’ll be evaluating how to spend the money.

“I think most people are interested in the state stabilization dollars, recovery dollars, those we kind of need to wait and see what the funds can be used for,” Sturm said. “Primarily the expectation is that it’s going to be used for necessary expenditures for COVID response, so things that are COVID related. That could be healthcare costs, it could be our direct response. We’ll see what the guidance says from the federal government.”

“They do mention water, sewer and broadband specifically,” she said. “So those do align with projects we have appropriations for in our budget.”

Industry groups also lauded the passage of the $1.9 trillion federal spending bill.

The Illinois Fuel and Retail Association praised the bill as a win for businesses that have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. But, CEO Josh Sharp said in a statement it should give the governor reason to abandon $930 million in tax increases through closing incentive programs the governor proposed in his budget.

Illinois Restaurant Association President Sam Toia praised the passage of the bill that frees up $28.6 billion in grants for restaurants across the country.

"We have a long road ahead to recovery as 124,000 food service jobs in Illinois were lost between March and December 2020 and 20 percent of our restaurants may still be unable to make it," IRA President Sam Toia said in a statement.

For the past year, restaurants have been either prohibited from offering indoor or limited by state COVID-19 rules.

Among other allocations of tax dollars, the measure also sends $5.5 billion to Illinois’ local governments, around $5 billion for Illinois K-12 schools, $1.3 billion for higher education and $1.3 billion for child care providers.

President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill.

Staff Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience and hosts the WMAY Morning Newsfeed out of Springfield.