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Government, Politics & Issues

Durbin: Federal shutdown would compound Illinois' state budget woes

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin visited Scott Air Force Base on Friday, Sept. 25, 2015 for a news conference warning about the economic impact of federal government shutdown.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

With a possible federal government shutdown on the horizon, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said Friday the consequences for his home state would be especially dire if it occurs while Illinois remains without a state budget.

“When we have government shutdown in Washington as we did several years ago, innocent people are going to suffer as a result of it,” Durbin said, standing in front of military planes at Scott Air Force Base. “And we can certainly know the impact it’s going to have on some groups, not the least of which will be federal employees.”

  According to Durbin, 3,400 civilian workers at Scott were sent home without pay during the last shutdown in 2013. More than 5,000 military personnel were required to work without pay for 16 days.

Asked what would happen in Illinois if the federal government shutdown during the state’s budget stalemate, Durbin said “a cutback at that level while the state is still struggling doesn’t help things at all.”

Illinois is currently operating on a patchwork of court decisions and consent decrees, including some that allow state departments to pass on federal funds.  

Durbin, a Democrat, said shutting down the federal government could block funding for essential services like the food stamp program SNAP.

“There’s a serious question within 30 days whether they’ll be able to make the payments. And many of these are working families and elderly people who depend on these SNAP benefits literally to feed themselves,” Durbin said.

Congress faces a Wednesday deadline to continue funding the government. Some Republicans have vowed to block a budget that funds Planned Parenthood.

But now that House Speaker John Boehner is resigning, the budget battle could be delayed until Dec. 11.

A temporary extension to the existing budget is expected to pass both houses of Congress this week as attention switches to electing a new speaker.

Legionnaires' in Quincy

Durbin on Friday also confirmed that he asking the U.S. Veterans Administration to investigate the safety of the Quincy Veterans Home in the wake of a Legionnaires' outbreak at the facility.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, 54 people have contracted the disease at the home. So far twelve veterans have died.

Durbin says the large veteran’s home is old and the water and ventilation systems need to be examined to make sure they’re safe. The bacteria that cause the respiratory illness grow in warm water and are spread by inhaling vapor.

“I don’t want to take anything away from the local efforts. People there have done a great job, but I wanted to call the V.A. in in the hopes that they might add a level of expertise, maybe even some help in financing change,” Durbin said after the news conference at Scott Air Force Base.

The democrat said he believes the V.A. will help, but he doesn’t have confirmation of whether or when the investigation will take place.

Follow Camille Phillips on Twitter: @cmpcamille.

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