Back when the economic recovery package (i.e. “the stimulus”) was being debated, a handful of Republican governors garnered headlines by rejecting various portions of the funding. One of the loudest critics of the legislation was Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX).
At the time, Perry said rejecting the money “was pretty simple for us. … We can take care of ourselves.” “I am so concerned about the belief that has gained a foothold in our national consciousness that the best and only way to solve our nation’s problems is to drown them with taxpayer dollars,” Perry also said, adding that, with regard to the stimulus, Texas should “look a gift horse in the mouth.”
The Texas state legislature eventually pushed Perry to accept the money, but even in his official acceptance letter, Perry wrote that “I believe there are better ways to reinvigorate our economy and believe [the bill] will burden future generations with unprecedented levels of debt.” However, as the Wall Street Journal noted this morning, the stimulus is the reason that Texas currently has a balanced budget:
[T]he economic downturn is catching up with Texas. Sales-tax revenue started falling in February 2009 compared with the previous year, and only started to recover a bit in April of this year. Although Mr. Perry has railed against the federal economic-stimulus program, billions of dollars from that initiative helped Texas legislators balance the current budget.
Texas faces an $18 billion shortfall in its next two-year budget, which amounts to 20 percent of the total. And Perry’s refusal to consider tax increases is setting the state up for draconian cuts. “There is no way that they will be able to come up with $18 billion in cuts,” said Eva DeLuna Castro, a senior budget analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priorities. “They would have to shut down our prison system.”
Perry is not the only governor to rail against the stimulus while relying on it to balance his budget. Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) called the stimulus “incoherent” and “largely wasted,” but still used it to fix one-third of his state’s budget hole.
According to the latest report from the Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus not only helped states stave off budget cuts, but also raised GDP by between 1.7 and 4 percentage points, lowered the unemployment rate by 1.5 percentage points, and created up to 2.8 million jobs. This is 250,000 to 500,000 more jobs than projected. CBO estimates that the stimulus will be responsible for up to 3.7 million jobs by September.
Cross-posted on The Wonk Room.