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Our friend the stimulus package

Jason Embry tells us just how much Texas relied on the stimulus package this year.

A new report from the National Conference of State Legislatures shows that federal stimulus dollars played a large role in allowing Texas lawmakers to balance their budget this year without tapping Rainy Day Funds.

The national group asked states to say how they closed their budget gaps for the 2010 budget year, and 35 states responded. Of those, 25 said they used federal stimulus dollars to close budget gaps, and Texas reported that it relied most heavily on stimulus dollars, using those dollars to provide 96.7 percent of the gap-closing solution. Nebraska was next at 88 percent.

At least 11 states (not Texas) raised taxes to close their gaps. At least eight states (not Texas) tapped their rainy day funds. Montana and West Virginia (not Texas) relied entirely on spending cuts.

Texas was one of the few states to avoid a budget shortfall in the current year. But the report also projects a budget gap of $4 billion to $5 billion a year starting in the 2012 budget year. This is all worth pointing out because state leaders rarely mention the $12 billion in stimulus dollars they received when they discuss what great work they did to balance the budget, and because Gov. Rick Perry was one of the country’s most dogged critics of the stimulus dollars.

Which is one reason why I mention it every chance I get. Even by Rick Perry standards, the level of hypocrisy here is stunning. The irony is that were it not for the stimulus money, the legislative session we had would have been much more contentious, and when that happens Perry’s approval rating usually takes a dive. You could argue that the main reason – perhaps the only reason – he’s gone from being conventionally considered a dead duck versus KBH in next year’s primary to leading in all the polls against her is precisely because of the stimulus, which not only made for a smoother session in the Lege but gave him a juicy issue to flog for his dead-ender base. He really leads a charmed political life, doesn’t he?

Meanwhile, Perry is defending his decision to reject the stimulus money for unemployment insurance, and (God help us) threatening to resist health care reform on “states rights” grounds. If you’re unemployed or uninsured, Rick Perry wants you to stay that way and quit pestering him about it. I will say that the fact that his rejection of the stimulus money for unemployment insurance hasn’t been a negative for him – polls have consistently shown a plurality agreeing with him on this – is a failure of Democratic messaging. If we can’t make that into a millstone for him, we’re not doing our job.

UPDATE: Of course, Rick Perry isn’t the only shameless hypocrite on the stimulus package. He may net even be the worst among GOP governors, hard as that may be to believe.

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  1. Baby Snooks says:

    He can resist health care reform all he wants to – the reality is he has no say in the matter. He can huff and puff but won’t be able to blow that house down as he does others.

    I suppose in 2011 he could refuse to fund it if it’s tied to matching funds from the states but then he might regret it. Congress has a way and a means. And he could end up watching as Congress cut all federal funding from Texas. And I suspect even the Republicans would override his veto if that became a possibility.

    Too many get too rich off the federal government. And as we know, it’s all about the money, honey with Republicans. As in how much money they personally can make off legislation. Or how much money they will lose. Of course there are Democrats who have the same approach. Just not as many.

    Of course we have to have health care reform and may not have it – already Obama is sending mixed signals. Those who already have insurance will be able to keep it? What exactly does that mean? Maybe they will just raise the income limits for Medicaid and hope that everyone is finally insured as a result although most don’t really consider Medicaid, or even Medicare at this point, to be insurance. It really doesn’t look too promising. The health care industry is a cash cow for too many. All of whom of course are sending in the checks.

  2. Pug says:

    I’m voting for Kay Bailey and I don’t generally vote in Republican primaries. This nut job has got to go.

    Our state has the highest percentage of its citizens without health care coverage of any state in the nation. Rick Perry couldn’t care less. He is a disgrace to the state of Texas. Even Kay Bailey Hutchinson is far better than this former Democrat turned knuckle dragger.

    Get the message, Rick. You might win the far right wingnuts, but even in Texas they aren’t a majority. Democrats and Independents are coming after you in the primary, dude.

  3. […] Press: Texas Governor Rick Perry says his state doesn’t want nationalized health care.  Idiotic, but good for the rest of […]

  4. Al says:
    It turns out that Texas had a 7.6% budget shortfall for 2010/2011. Federal funds happened to cover 96.7% of the shortfall. Many States had much larger shortfalls and the Federal funds were insufficient for them. For some reason the report claims that Texas “benefited most.” The AAS repeated this poor word choice in their article. Texas ARRA payments matched Texas’ need most. Jason Embry chose to report the least relevant statistic out a 24 page report. I guess 96.7% is more impressive than: Stimulus funds account for 7.3% of Texas’ Budget.

  5. […] mentioned in passing that Governor Perry has decided that since his battle against the stimulus package was so […]