McConnell bill could force localities to defund police
The bill pushed by Mitch McConnell, GOP Senate Majority Leader, would force localities to cut all forms of public safety. | Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Funds for public safety, including police, will be on the chopping block for cities and states across the nation if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gets his way. McConnell is insisting that state, tribal, and local governments get no federal funds in a Covid-19 Relief Bill.

McConnell’s refusal to allow Congress to include such assistance will force the defunding of police departments across the nation, police that McConnell claims to protect against defunding efforts.

The Democratic proposal which McConnell is blocking includes $160 billion to help fill local budget gaps caused by decreases in revenue and increases in costs due to the pandemic and economic crisis. McConnell’s counter-proposal includes ZERO dollars in aid to cities,  ZERO dollars in aid to states, and ZERO dollars in aid to tribal governments.

It’s not only police and public safety. Schools, public health clinics, public transportation, aid to the homeless, and even distribution of vaccines must be paid for at the local level.

States and local governments nationwide have been overwhelmed by revenue losses, forcing more than 1.6 million municipal employee layoffs already. The budget gap for states alone adds up to $175 billion according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. By August, Brookings reported 1.5 million essential workers already laid off with many more threatened as the revenue decreases hit.

The federal government has enormous flexibility in expanding its spending, and that’s the spending McConnel is blocking. But every one of America’s states and cities and tribal governments – no matter whether they’re run by Democrats or Republicans – have no options. They can only respond to budget deficits by cutting services and laying off workers.

Those on the layoff lists include hundreds of thousands of teachers, police officers, operators who answer 911-calls, ambulance drivers, fire fighters, nurses, bus drivers, and sanitation workers. Police comprise the second largest category of municipal employees, totaling 650,000., second only to education workers.

In a move being played out across the country, this week in Los Angeles, the City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee took up a proposal from the city’s top financial analysts to begin preparations for the layoff of as many as 1,900 employees, the vast majority of them at the LAPD according to a report from the Los Angeles Times.

Since the police murders earlier this year of George Floyd and Breana Taylor, McConnell and his fellow hypocrites have rung every alarm bell and blown every dog whistle over the impact of progressive proposals aimed at putting a stop to the criminalization of residents of black and brown communities.  The progressives led by the BLM movement propose transferring resources away from over-aggressive policing. They call for directing these resources to restorative justice and education, food, housing, and health programs in these communities.

Ironically, if McConnell gets his way, the hit to public safety and police force funding will be greater than anything proposed by AOC and other progressives.

It turns out it’s McConnell who is the biggest threat to funding for public safety of any kind.

In fact, if McConnell and his ilk win the day, any form of public safety stands to be de-funded.


Roberta Wood
Roberta Wood

Roberta Wood is a retired member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Coalition of Labor Union Women. Wood was a steelworker in South Chicago, an officer of Steelworkers Local 65, and founding co-chair of the USWA District 31 Women's Caucus. She was previously Secretary-Treasurer of the Communist Party. Currently, she serves as a Senior Editor of People's World.