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Some GOP governors may reject stimulus aid

Associated Press / February 19, 2009
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BATON ROUGE, La. - A half-dozen Republican governors are considering turning down some money from the federal stimulus package, a move opponents say puts conservative ideology ahead of the needs of constituents struggling with foreclosures and unemployment.

Though none has outright rejected the money available for education, healthcare, and infrastructure, the governors of Alaska, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas have all questioned whether the $787 billion bill signed into law this week will help the economy.

"My concern is there's going to be commitments attached to it that are a mile long," said Governor Rick Perry of Texas. "We need the freedom to pick and choose. And we need the freedom to say 'No thanks.' "

But Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 House Democrat, said the governors - some of whom may be considering White House bids in 2012 - are putting their own interests ahead of the public interest.

Governors who reject some of the stimulus aid may find themselves overridden by their own legislatures because of language Clyburn included in the bill that allows lawmakers to accept the federal money even if their governors object.

He inserted the provision based on the early and vocal opposition to the stimulus plan by South Carolina's Republican governor, Mark Sanford. But it also means governors including Sanford and Louisiana's Bobby Jindal can burnish their conservative credentials, knowing all the while that their legislatures can accept the money anyway.

Jindal said he, like Perry and Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi, is concerned about strings attached to the money even though his state faces a $1.6 billion budget shortfall next year.

For example, Barbour spokesman Dan Turner cited concerns that accepting unemployment money from the stimulus package would force states to pay benefits to people who wouldn't meet state requirements to receive them.

Not all Republican governors are wary about spending the federal cash. Charlie Crist of Florida, Sonny Perdue of Georgia, and Bob Riley of Alabama favor the stimulus package.

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