GOP Governors Spar Over Stimulus Money
By Philip Rucker
As they pore over the federal stimulus bill aimed to help stabilize their teetering state economies, several high-profile Republican governors took to the airwaves this morning and continued to spar over how much stimulus money to accept.
The nation's governors, gathered in Washington this weekend for a semi-annual National Governors Association meeting, are focused on the economy and plans to quickly use President Obama's $787 billion economic recovery legislation to put their residents back to work. The governors will meet with Obama at the White House tomorrow morning, where they plan to discuss the stimulus spending.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) said it "could take years from now" for his state's economy to recover and urged calm bipartisanship. He also said Republicans should look beyond political principles and do "what is right for the country right now."
Schwarzenegger, in an interview this morning with George Stephanopolos on ABC's "This Week," likened the state of the economy to a cancer patient. "You want to see this team of doctors around you, have their act together, be very clear and say, 'This is what we need to do,' rather than see a bunch of doctors fighting in front of you and arguing about the treatment," Schwarzenegger said. "I mean, that is the worst thing. It creates insecurity in the patient."
Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) sounded similar themes, saying it may be a mistake for the Republican Party to define itself in opposition to the stimulus bill and urged Republicans to give Obama "a shot."
"I think he's on the right track," Crist said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "I don't think anybody says this is a perfect bill. I don't. I don't think even President Obama says that. But we've got to do something."
Meanwhile, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) came out swinging against the stimulus bill, saying his state may not accept all of the federal funds, including money for unemployment benefits.
Asked on "FOX News Sunday" why he would reject some funds considering South Carolina has the nation's third-highest unemployment rate, Sanford said: "At times it sounds like the Soviet grain quotas of Stalin's time -- X number of jobs will be created because Washington says so. And that's not the way that jobs get created."
"In many cases, the money that would come to our state comes with substantial strings attached that, frankly, undo a lot of what we're trying to do at the state level," Sanford added.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a rising GOP star, criticized the stimulus bill and said he would accept stimulus money for many projects, including transportation upgrades. But on "Meet the Press," Jindal said Louisiana would not accept money to expand eligibility for unemployment because it ultimately would result in an increase in taxes paid by employers.
"The $100 million we turned down was temporary federal dollars that would require us to change our unemployment laws," Jindal said in explaining his decision. "That would've actually raised taxes on Louisiana businesses.... I don't think it makes sense to be raising taxes on Louisiana businesses during these economically challenging times."
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) said his state would follow suit, rejecting the stimulus provision to expand unemployment eligibility. "We want more jobs," he said on CNN's "State of the Union." "You don't get more jobs by putting an extra tax on cutting jobs."
Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm (D) of Michigan, one of the nation's hardest-hit states, told CNN's John King that she would happily take stimulus funds that Republican governors reject.
"South Carolina, I'll take your money," Granholm said. "Louisiana, we'll take it. We've got plenty of work here, plenty of jobs that we'd like to create here."
As the Republican governors jockey for position leading their beleaguered party into the next election cycle, three who are seen as potential presidential candidates refused to rule out running for president in 2012.
Asked about running for president, Sanford said, "So is it a plan? Absolutely not. Is it a likelihood? Absolutely not. But I've learned that you never say guaranteed on tomorrow when you don't know tomorrow."
Jindal said he will seek re-election in 2011, but has "no plays beyond that."
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) did not rule out a run, but said he is thinking about running for re-election in 2010 and that if he were to win, his constituents would expect him to serve out a full four-year term. But Pawlenty did say he wanted to "make news right here" by announcing his candidacy for president of his youth soccer association.
Patricia E. Gaston
February 22, 2009; 1:30 PM ET
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