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Republican Governors Torn Over Taking Stimulus Funds

By Philip Rucker
The nation's governors, battered by plunging tax revenue and growing budget deficits in their states, converged on Washington today and predicted the economies in their beleaguered states would only worsen.

But even as governors outlined plans to spend billions of federal dollars in the economic recovery package to quickly put residents back to work, an internal rift among Republican governors over the stimulus bill dominated the opening of the three-day National Governors' Association meeting.

Some Republican governors, including Louisiana's Bobby Jindal, Mississippi's Haley Barbour and South Carolina's Mark Sanford, said in recent days they would reject portions of the federal stimulus funding. Barbour said today his state would decline a provision in the bill that expands state unemployment insurance coverage, a move he estimated would cost his state about $50 million in federal funds.

Asked about the stimulus package, Sanford said: "I think it's a bad idea. Period. Exclamation point.... Good medicine to the wrong patient ultimately makes the patient sicker. What we're dealing with here is a fundamental misdiagnosis of the problem."

South Carolina "may accept parts, decline others or some combination thereof," Sanford said.

But other Republicans said that despite disagreements with the legislation, they would use the federal funds. Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. (R), asked about his colleagues' statements, said: "If you're gonna complain about it, don't take it. We're taking it, yes, and it's budgeted currently."

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) criticized the bill as "a meandering spending buffet," but said his state is "going to accept the money."

"This is a bill that missed the mark in terms of being focused and targeted," Pawlenty said. "For many Republicans, it's not our bill. But it is now the law, so we have an opportunity and responsibility to try to implement it as best as possible."

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D) called the debate among Republicans about accepting the stimulus money "overblown."

"Look, the argument's over, the fight's over," said Rendell, chairman of the governors' association. "The bill passed. Now if you're a governor, even if you disagreed with the bill, if the money's there and it will help your citizens get jobs, it will bring your citizens some extra health care or extra food stamps dollars, of course you're going to accept that money."

The governors, who will attend a black-tie dinner at the White House Sunday night and meet with President Obama Monday morning, are pushing an aggressive agenda to rebuild the nation's crumbling infrastructure. Rendell said the stimulus package is just a step toward that goal and that a long-term commitment to infrastructure spending is needed.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) said the stimulus package is "not just a Band-Aid on a problem. This is an opportunity to transform the economy."

In Maryland, Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) said road crews will begin work in three weeks on an initial round of infrastructure projects, costing about $365 million in federal stimulus funds, that are "locked, loaded and ready to go."

In hard-hit Michigan, Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm (D) said her state has "$4 billion worth of projects that are ready to fit into $700 million in allocations, so you better believe people will be put to work immediately."

Many governors said they were bracing for the economy to decline further before it recovers and are consumed with balancing their budgets, where most states have large deficits.

"Nobody knows quite where this economic storm is going, but chances are 2011 is going to be a bad year, too, so the ability therefore to pull our rainy day fund into the future and preserve our bonding capacity is terribly important for our long-term viability as a state," Huntsman said.

By Web Politics Editor  |  February 21, 2009; 1:34 PM ET
Categories:  B_Blog , Economy  
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Go ahead and reject your portions of the stimulus! More money for the West and East coast states. We'll all blow you a kiss and say thanks!

Posted by: saralorenz | February 24, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Gov. Jindal has already announced he won't take the $100 million to expand unemployment eligibility because of the unfunded mandate it would create next year, eventually costing businesses MORE than $100 million. That's just smart long-term government planning.

Posted by: JakeD | February 22, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure that some of the money will be turned down (or accepted via the alternative means of Legislative concurrent resolution).

Posted by: JakeD | February 22, 2009 10:14 AM | Report abuse

On a more practical note -

If you own a small biz like I do, or if you work for one, it's time to get your biz. registered as a vendor with the Federal Govt.

From what I understand there are some hoops to go through and some paperwork to do - but if your regular customers aren't buying - or if they're buying but not paying - it's time to be ready to go to the biggest cash customer in the market.

I've never explored this option before because I didn't want to and didn't need to. But if your payroll depends on it and you want to keep your people working, check out this link:

Posted by: JohnQuimby | February 21, 2009 11:08 PM | Report abuse

Well, this is the Republicans's opinion on what they think on the stimulus plan. Since the plan has been declared a law, there's nothing they can do. all the stimulus plan is about helping the middle class people finding their way to their jobs and decrease the amount of unemployment rates. If the Republicans believe they think the stimulus plan is a waste of time, then they really find themselves ignorant and somewhat selfish. :-(

Posted by: chaniquafrazier | February 21, 2009 10:46 PM | Report abuse

So who are they going to hurt? They are going to hurt the people that they were elected to serve. People will remember the ones who hurt them in the pocketbook the longest. Republicans don't give a squat about anyone but themselves. They are the epitome of self serving morons. It's like Arnold said, anyone of them that don't want it just give it to California.

Posted by: racam | February 21, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Statistical Logic will defeat the GOP. The majority does like you anymore. Your financial ID is off.

Posted by: presidentdagwood | February 21, 2009 6:20 PM | Report abuse

Is it possable that the GOP has lost the 2 party chess game?

Posted by: presidentdagwood | February 21, 2009 6:06 PM | Report abuse


Arnie already said today that he will take the share of any GOP governor who turns the money down.

I'm sure Charlie Crist in Florida feels the same!


Posted by: toritto | February 21, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse


They ditched their principals when they borrowed us into debt in the first place.

The rest of this is political BS of the deepest and smelliest kind.

Posted by: JohnQuimby | February 21, 2009 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Won't be long before these GOP obstructionists will be forced to ditch their principles and accept any and all funds to save their own political futures.

Posted by: parkerfl1 | February 21, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

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