Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) has been taking some well-deserved heat recently for lambasting the stimulus as “misdirected,” “incoherent,” and “largely wasted,” at the same time that one-third of the fix he uses to balance Minnesota’s budget is stimulus money. Plus, as Minnesota Public Radio pointed out today, Pawlenty is counting on this funding, but refused to join an overwhelming majority of the nation’s governors in publicly saying so:
Gov. Tim Pawlenty refused Monday to sign a letter from the nation’s governors calling on Congress to pass an extension of part of the federal stimulus, a bill that Pawlenty is counting on to balance Minnesota’s budget. Pawlenty refused to sign the letter from the National Governor’s Association calling on Congress to extend stimulus funds for Medicaid for six more months. 47 of the 55 governors of states and territories signed the letter.
Pawlenty also used stimulus money to balance his state’s budget last year, which went towards health care for low income Minnesotans, public education and public safety. And while Pawlenty includes in his stimulus criticism the view that the stimulus should have done more to cut taxes, Minnesota state economist Tom Stinson has pointed out that, in fact, the stimulus included hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts.
Other Republican governors were not so hesitant to sign onto the letter, including Gov. Bob McDonnell (VA). Gov Haley Barbour (R-MS) also signed on, even though he was part of a group of GOP governors who initially rejected portions of the stimulus last year. Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL), as part of his on-again, off-again relationship with the stimulus, said yesterday that accepting stimulus funding was “the responsible and right thing to do for the people and it puts people above politics.”
That the overwhelming majority of governors signed the letter highlights just how dire the fiscal situation is for states across the country. According to a new report from the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, “state tax collections shrank at the end of 2009 for a fifth consecutive quarter, the longest period of continuing state revenue declines since at least the Great Depression.” Collectively, states face about $180 billion in budget shortfalls for fiscal year 2011 (which begins July 1 for most states), and according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “without further federal aid, the actions states will have to take to close their budget gaps could cost the economy 900,000 jobs.”