When the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (i.e. the stimulus) was first signed into law, a handful of Republican governors grandstanded against money for extending unemployment insurance, threatening to reject the money because of “the strings attached.”
“We can take care of ourselves. And we do not need any more strings from Washington attached to programs,” said Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), who was joined in his stand by Govs. Bobby Jindal (R-LA), Haley Barbour (R-MI), Mark Sanford (R-SC), and former half-term governor Sarah Palin (R-AK).
Of course, all of the governors wound up accepting the money: Sanford this month “quietly signed a bill passed by the Legislature that expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits.” Perry, in fact, was only able to balance his budget thanks to the stimulus.
But now that Congress has passed a new round of aid to states, the gubernatorial grandstanding is beginning again. This time, it’s Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) who was the first to cast doubt on whether he will accept money from a bill he has criticized as a “reckless spending spree”:
Pawlenty, eyeing a run for the White House in 2012, said Thursday in an interview with the Star Tribune that he has not decided what to do. “I haven’t made a decision,” he said. “We are still looking into it.”
Minnesota is eligible for $263 million from the $26 billion bill, which provided $16 billion in aid for Medicaid programs and $10 billion for education jobs. The education funding alone will save an estimated 2,400 jobs in the state.
But Pawlenty is no stranger to taking advantage of stimulus money while simultaneously pretending to be staunchly against federal spending aimed at combating the effects of the Great Recession. After all, he has derided the Recovery Act as “misdirected,” “incoherent,” and “largely wasted,” but that didn’t stop him from using it to balance his budget for the last two years.
In February, Pawlenty refused to sign a letter in favor of extended Medicaid funding, even though he had already included the money in his budget. The letter was signed by 47 other governors, including Barbour, and conservative darlings like Govs. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Bob McDonnell (R-VA), and Mitch Daniels (R-IN).