So about all those stimulus funds

Remember how Governor Perry had argued against states receiving federal stimulus dollars? Well, he still doesn’t want them, though he’s giving himself some waffle room.

Gov. Rick Perry said Tuesday he’s not sure the state should accept all of its projected share of federal stimulus money — $16.9 billion and counting by preliminary estimates — because of the “mile-long” strings that might be attached.

“In Texas, we actually know it is a good idea to look a gift horse in the mouth. If we don’t, we may end up with an old nag,” said Perry, who has been critical of such federal spending and voiced concern over whether the state could afford federal strings.

“One thing that concerns me is that dollars are going to come into Texas that require us to match those dollars, and then two years from now, those federal dollars won’t be there, but we will be on the hook to pay for those programs going forward,” Perry said.

Funny, I don’t recall that being a condition for property tax cuts. But that’s Totally Different, because, well, it just is.

According to a preliminary legislative analysis, economic stimulus provisions that affect the Texas budget could total about $16.9 billion.

Perry didn’t say which programs he was referring to, and spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said his staff still is looking over potential allocations to Texas.

One program that raised concern early on was funding for unemployment insurance that would be contingent on state changes allowing more jobless people to become eligible, Cesinger said.

That would be the unemployment insurance fund that we stopped fully funding awhile ago.

Rep. Jim Dunnam, D-Waco, who heads the state House’s Select Committee on Federal Economic Stabilization Funding, said it’s hard to understand the GOP governor being reluctant to take stimulus funding.

“The governor every year comes in and wants half a billion dollars for the (state) enterprise fund to create jobs and stimulate economic growth and he’s going to say we don’t want $20 billion?” Dunnam said. “I find it difficult to understand.”

Perry said he welcomes federal dollars for one-time infrastructure improvements, such as transportation.

“You’ve got plenty of roads and re-doing some things down in Galveston County and that part of the state hurt by the hurricane. We’ll gladly accept those dollars. But we need to say, ‘No, thanks,’ if they’re trying to stick a bill on the state of Texas to expand government,” Perry said.

And what, road and reconstruction projects always come in under budget? Anything we undertake now might wind up costing more later. That doesn’t mean they’re not worth doing. Heck, some things turn out to be sufficiently worthwhile that we decide to spend more on them later. What are we afraid of?

I accept that sometimes federal monies come with unpalatable requirements. I don’t mind having a debate over those things, as long as the Lege gets to express an opinion as well. These decisions need to be made on a larger basis than Rick Perry’s primary campaign. We can always include a sunset provision on anything we’re not sure we want to keep funding two years from now. BOR has more.

UPDATE: In the end, Governor Perry has decided to take the cash. Since that’s what I wanted him to do, I’ll spare the snark about being against it before he was for it. But that doesn’t mean you have to! Here would be a fine place to express your sarcasm. Just be careful about what email address you use.

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