Local Officials Press Congress for Aid
Local government officials have called on Congress to quickly pass the $350 billion in direct, flexible aid for state and local governments included President Biden’s American Rescue Plan to help make up for lost revenue from lagging sales, income, and property taxes.
During a January 28 press call, officials affiliated with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, National League of Cities, and National Association of Counties expressed disappointment that the relief was not included in the federal coronavirus relief package passed in December 2020 (H.R. 133).
Jeff Williams, mayor of Arlington, Texas, and chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Metro Economies Committee, said sales tax revenues are down in most cities, and that income taxes have also taken a hit because of job losses. He added that property tax revenues are expected to decline because property values are decreasing, especially on properties owned by commercial businesses.
“We’re still feeling the effects, and then you add to that [that] we need to be on the front lines administering these vaccines and administering help to our businesses. So, we need the help so we can be standing on our two feet and moving ahead and not reeling from the economic loss,” Williams said.
The officials urged Congress to swiftly pass Biden’s plan, which includes $350 billion for state and local governments. Without the aid, the officials said they will be forced to make further cuts to municipal services and lay off and furlough even more workers, which will hinder the economic recovery.
Williams said cities across the nation, big and small, are facing the same fiscal pressure. “This is not a big city or a 'blue state' problem — that is nonsense. I can tell you that there are mayors just like me who are in dire need of fiscal relief,” he said.
U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., opposed the aid sought by state and local governments, calling it a bailout for Democrat-run states.
The December 2020 relief package didn’t include the requested aid.
The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (H.R. 925) passed by the House October 1, 2020, included more than $1 trillion in aid for state and local governments, including $915 billion in flexible aid.
Nan Whaley (D), mayor of Dayton, Ohio, said the $350 billion will be enough to cover immediate needs, and that an additional federal relief package is expected to provide more aid.
According to Williams, since the pandemic began, nearly 1.4 million people who worked for state and local governments have lost their jobs. “We are not seeing a V-shaped recovery at all,” he said.
Williams said the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ recently updated report on local economies forecasts that it will be mid-2023 before even half of American cities regain the jobs that were lost last year.
Victoria Woodards, mayor of Tacoma, Washington, said that when residents lose jobs, demand for state and local government services increases.
Woodards said municipal revenues are down and expenditures are up, which means reduced services for things like waste collection, recycling, and public transit.