ST. PAUL — Ten state legislators from the Upper Midwest have signed a letter critical of a federal government "bailout" to states amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Published by the conservative interest group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) on Tuesday, July 28, dozens of nationwide lawmakers, lobbyists and stakeholders have signed onto the letter. The letter says that a federal payout to states in Congress's next round of coronavirus aid "would be harmful to taxpayers, federalism, and ultimately the states themselves."

Five legislators from South Dakota, two from North Dakota, two from Minnesota and one from Wisconsin signed onto the letter, along with each of the four states' directors for Americans for Prosperity's state-level units. AFP is a Virginia-based libertarian lobbying group backed by Charles Koch and his later brother, David Koch.

Of the 10 total Upper Midwestern legislators, all Republicans, several hold prominent leadership positions in their respective Capitols: South Dakota's Rep. Lee Qualm is the state's House Majority Leader. Minnesota's Rep. Pat Garofalo is the Republican lead on the House's Ways and Means Committee, and Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer chairs the Senate's State Government and Election Finance Committee. North Dakota's Rep. Craig Headland is vice chairman of the House's Finance and Taxation Committee.

In the letter, the lawmakers and lobbyists say federal money to states would be "counterproductive" and "harmful," "rewarding states that have made poor financial decisions at the expense of those that have been fiscally responsible."

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"While the economy has produced record revenues in recent years, sadly, states have also continued to accumulate massive amounts of debt and unfunded financial liabilities," the letter read. "A federal bailout would only encourage this cycle of debt and spending to continue. It would also send the wrong message to states that have made difficult spending choices and practiced fiscal discipline."

The letter also says a federal coronavirus allocation to state budgets would increase federal debt, raise taxes and spending "cause an additional erosion of federalism."

"Instead, states should work to craft a priority-based budget," the letter said. "The American people are being forced to make difficult but fiscally responsible decisions during the pandemic, and states need to do the same."

The following Upper Midwestern state legislators and lobbyists signed onto the letter:

  • Rep. Lee Qualm, R-S.D.
  • Sen. Jim Stalzer, R-S.D.
  • Rep. David Johnson, R-S.D.
  • Rep. Tina Mullalley, R-S.D.
  • Rep. Chris Johnson, R-S.D.
  • AFP South Dakota State Director Don Haggar
  • Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Minn.
  • Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Minn.
  • AFP Minnesota State Director Jason Flohrs
  • Rep. Vicky Steiner, R-N.D.
  • Rep. Craig Headland, R-N.D.
  • AFP North Dakota State Director Michael Fedorchak
  • Rep. David Murphy, R-Wisc.
  • AFP Wisconsin State Director Eric Bott