State Rep. Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur) is criticizing the fiscal moves of the administration of Gov. J.B. Pritzker after taxpayers and employers are forced to pay more to the state’s unemployment fund. 

The Unemployment Insurance legislation went through an “Agreed Bill” process under which, businesses, labor, and lawmakers worked together on a common solution. The result was a massive payment of $1.8 billion to prop up the state’s unemployment insurance fund. The state dragged its feet in repaying the bill.

“Had we done the right thing two years ago and used federal COVID money to pay off the federal loan, taxpayers wouldn’t have paid a penalty of $20 million and employers wouldn’t have paid a penalty of $114 million,” Caulkins said. “We knew this would happen. And now the only solution being pushed is for employers to pay more. Meanwhile, there was little discussion about finding the people who defrauded taxpayers of an estimated $2 billion in unemployment payments and making sure that doesn’t happen again.“ If the state had failed to act the total penalty would have been over $900 million.

The Illinois Freedom Caucus, comprised of State Representatives Adam Niemerg (R-Dieterich); Chris Miller (R-Oakland); Brad Halbrook (R-Shelbyville); Blaine Wilhour (R-Beecher City), and Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur) – penned a letter noting Pritzker’s failure in paying the bill sooner. 

“Let’s be clear why we are here today," the group’s letter reads, The Southland Journal reported. "We are here because Governor Pritzker locked down our economy creating a raid on the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund like we have never seen before. We are here because instead of paying back the $4.5 billion we borrowed from the federal government to make the fund solvent, our leaders chose only partial payments from Illinois’s American Rescue Plan Act funds to back the loan. Instead of making good on the loan, our state’s leaders chose election year ploys such as temporary tax relief measures to improve their re-election chances.” 

The group also underscored that the governor “could not figure out how to stop fraud and waste as the state paid out $2 billion in fraudulent unemployment claims.”

“The mismanagement and incompetence have led to where it always leads – higher taxes," the Illinois Freedom Caucus further stated. "As a result of the vote taken today on the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund bailout, taxes on businesses will go up 12 percent over the next five years. Those taxes will ultimately be paid by hard-working families who will see higher prices for the things they need to run their households. This is on top of the record inflation we are experiencing all across this country. Today’s vote is another example of how hard-working, honest people are paying a steep price for the graft and corruption in Springfield. Our leaders chose their own political future over working families. This is disappointing but not unexpected in our corrupt state.”

Pritzker in particular was pointed out for his poor oversight of the state program which was rife with fraud. The governor noted he is trying to get the stolen state money back. According to him, “The federal government has identified billions of dollars from the federal creation of the PUA program." Pritzker added that they are "still working with the federal government to uncover that and also to prosecute people who fraudulently took money from the system,” The Center Square reported. 

The state fraud comes as Covid unemployment fraud is being investigated federally. GOP members on the House Ways and Means Committee recently drafted a letter to the U.S. Department of Labor demanding materials related to the fraud. “Since the Summer of 2020, repeated alerts from federal law enforcement agencies warned of targeted efforts involving organized cybercrime, foreign actors, and international crime rings using stolen identities of American citizens to obtain fraudulent unemployment benefits,” a letter said. “Fraud estimates range from $80 billion to as much as $400 billion, which is nearly half of all the COVID-19 unemployment aid.”

Rob Karr, director of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, applauded the passage of the legislation. According to Karr, “Illinois employers would have faced crushing tax increases. Following years of disruption and myriad ongoing challenges, it would have been an added burden many employers would have been unable to bear. Passage of this agreement helps … ease pressure, ensure greater stability in the unemployment insurance systems, and means Illinois employers will face at least $900 million less in taxes over five years than they would have otherwise.”