Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Sunday | February 1, 2009
Home : International
Republican governors support stimulus bill

Most Republican governors have broken with their fellow party members in Congress and are pushing for passage of President Barack Obama's economic aid plan that would send billions to states for education, public works and health care.

Their state treasuries drained by the financial crisis, governors would welcome the money from Capitol Hill, where Republican lawmakers are more sceptical of Obama's spending priorities.

The 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, scheduled meetings in Washington this weekend with Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other senators to press for her state's share of the package.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist worked the phones last week with members of his state's con-gressional delegation, including House Republicans. Vermont Governor Jim Douglas, the Republican vice-chairman of the National Governors Association, planned to be in Washington on Monday to urge the Senate to approve the plan.

"As the executive of a state experiencing budget challenges, Governor Douglas has a different perspective on the situation than congressional Republicans," said Douglas' deputy chief of staff, Dennise Casey.

tax cuts

Not a single Republican voted with the majority last week when the House of Representatives approved Obama's $819 billion combination of tax cuts and new spending. The president's goal is to create or preserve three million to four million jobs.

Republicans, led by House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, complained that the plan is laden with pet projects and will not yield the jobs or stimulate the economy in the way Obama has promised.

The measure faces Republican opposition in the Senate, where it will be up for a vote in the week ahead.

But states are coping with severe budget shortfalls and mounting costs for Medicaid, the health insurance programme for the poor. So governors, including most Republicans, are counting on the spending to help keep their states afloat.

This past week the bipartisan National Governors Association called on Congress to quickly pass the plan.

"States are facing fiscal conditions not seen since the Great Depression - anticipated budget shortfalls are expected in excess of $200 billion," the NGA statement said. It said the governors support "several key elements of the bill critical to states," including increased federal support for Medicaid, education, infrastructure investment and tax provisions to spur investment.

free money

Clyde Frazier, a professor of political science at Meredith College in North Carolina, said it was not politically inconsistent for Republican governors and members of Congress to part ways on the stimulus plan.

"For governors, it's free money - they get the benefits and they don't have to pay the costs of raising the revenues," Frazier said. "Senators and representatives get only some credit for the expenditures, and they have to pay the bill."

That's not to say Republican governors are entirely enthusiastic about the plan. Some worry about the debt incurred through so much federal borrowing.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a former member of the House, said he would accept the stimulus money but would have voted against the bill if he were still in Congress. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, said he was not sure whether he would accept the approximately $3 billion his state would be in line for.

"Yes, we need some help and we appreciate the help," Barbour said in an interview. "But I don't know about the details and the strings attached to tell you if I'll take all of it or not."

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