Republican Governors About-Face on Stimulus Funds
With state workforces and budgets in shambles, it’s kind of hard to understand why some states have resisted accepting funds from the stimulus plan. The primary goal of any governor should be the welfare of its residents and with the federal government sitting with an open wallet, it begs the question why some states are resisting and how their resistance is impacting the overall recovery.
Well, slowly but surely, it seems the hold outs are quietly starting to accept stimulus funds:
Remember all those governors who objected to taking $7 billion in stimulus money set aside to help the unemployed? Many of them changed their minds. Now, more than half the states are getting the federal stimulus.
As the down economy drags on, some of the most conservative states have updated their laws so they, too, could get their share. Others are still holding out.
Several southern states were among the first to say they did not want to take federal stimulus funds to help the unemployed. Republican governors from Georgia to Louisiana, Texas to South Carolina were outspoken opponents of expanding unemployment benefits.
Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina in 2009 said, “I was against the stimulus. I’ve consistently stood against the stimulus. If you take all this stimulus money and you spend it all, over the long run there will be less economic activity in South Carolina rather than more.”
But last week, without much fanfare, the Labor Department released $97 million to South Carolina after state legislators modernized the unemployment insurance program and Sanford signed the bill into law.
“When some of the states were talking about not taking the money, it was more political than anything else,” says Jon Shure of the Washington D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
“People put aside some of their political distinctions and ideological considerations and said, ‘This is money we need. It’s bad for the economy if we don’t take it,’ ” Shure adds.
With the unemployment rate at 9.5 percent and more than 14 million Americans out of work, state officials are under pressure to take the federal help.
In South Carolina’s case, their unemployment numbers have trended higher than the nation as a whole during the economy’s breakdown:
Other states, including Georgia, Nebraska and Tennessee, have recently come along too, in order to help bolster their recovery:
According to the National Employment Law Project, 28 states passed overhauls last year, and nearly a dozen states considered changing their laws this year. Several are still debating the issue. They have until next August to make the changes and qualify for the stimulus dollars.
But some are likely to hold their ground. Last week, several Republican governors again balked at the latest federal stimulus package intended to help states pay for Medicaid and prevent more teacher layoffs.