As state and local governments grapple with the devastating economic impact of COVID-19, many are asking Congress for hundreds of billions in federal bailouts.

Public health impacts stemming from the coronavirus have had major impacts on our state. The pandemic has also disrupted our economy, with lockdowns leaving businesses of all sizes financially devastated, resulting in massive layoffs and threatening millions of families’ livelihoods.

But using this crisis to force taxpayers to pay for years of irresponsible spending is not the way to solve the problem. On the contrary, it would only make things worse.

Some lawmakers are using this crisis to pander for handouts to pay for their past mistakes in the name of helping those who have been hit hardest.

Taxpayers should not be held liable for the bad decisions made by politicians, in Mississippi or elsewhere.

Last month, Illinois’ Senate Democratic Caucus asked the federal government for an additional $40 billion on top of the billions the state has already been given. Illinois Senate President Don Harmon has asked that $10 billion of these fundsgo toward sustaining Illinois infamously mismanaged pension system for government employees.

Long before the first case of COVID-19 was discovered in the U.S., Illinois pension system was a strain on the state budget, accounting for an astounding 25 percent of the state’s annual general revenue expenditures. Data from the National Association of State Retirement Administrators shows that Illinois spends nearly double than the national average on pension benefits.

State administrators had ample opportunity to tighten their belts and make the hard but necessary choices to foster a responsible retirement system. But time and again they failed to do so.

Now, left with a dismal bond rating and a perennial state budget crisis, Illinois’ debt load is currently $4,891.57 per citizen. That’s 92 percent more than Mississippi’s.

As the pandemic continues to cause state revenue to fall, state and local governments will soon have to make tough choices.

The federal government has already provided at least $1.8 trillion in assistance to state governments intended to support individuals, businesses and states that were directly affected by COVID-19.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has asked Congress to “think big,” encouraging them to pass a bailout package to the tune of nearly $1 trillion (with an additional $2 trillion in other spending).  

Contrary to Speak Pelosi’s statements, thinking big at a time when the nation is struggling should mean tearing down the barriers that stand in the way of economic prosperity. We should not be burdening those who are already struggling to get by in the wake of this pandemic.

Handing out another $3 trillion in borrowed money wouldburden today’s taxpayers and increase the load on future generations to pay for problems created years and even decades before the COVID-19 crisis began.

The Magnolia State is proud to help those who have been hit the hardest.

When the pandemic began, Mississippi-based C&W Companies,one of the country’s largest embroider and screen printing companies, began producing protective masks for the rest of the country. Likewise, several distilleries switched gears and began producing hand sanitizer to ensure the U.S. could keep up with the increased demand.

Helping our fellow man is commendable. But legislating by crisis to bail out irresponsible state governments is not the right solution.  

Bailouts won’t fix a mismanaged system. They just make it worse, by kicking the can down the road and rewarding bad behavior.

Bailing out states would send the message that there are no consequences to politicianspoor fiscal decisions. It would also remove any incentive for states to plan their budgets responsibly. And this cycle will continue until the day of reckoning inevitably arrives.

Our own Sen. Roger Wicker serves as Chairman of the Commerce Committee, which gives him a unique opportunity to support Mississippi’s interests in Washington.

We urge Sen. Wicker to stand up for hardworking Mississippians by rejecting these unfair and unnecessary special interest bailouts.

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Steven Utroska is state director of Americans for Prosperity-Mississippi.