Sunday, February 22, 2009

No, Thanks: Louisiana Governor Jindal Refuses (Some) Stimulus Money

A risky move?  Maybe.  But I kinda LIKE it.  After the recent and endless drumbeat of ever-increasing spending from DC, I'm exhausted -- and relieved to hear even one person say that this orgy of spending isn't such a great idea (plus it has strings attached, plus it could spawn all kinds of unintended consequences).

Then again, I've found Jindal a fascinating figure for a long time.  (Watch for him to give the Republican response to Obama's big Congress speech on Tuesday.)

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal announced Friday that he will decline stimulus money specifically targeted at expanding state unemployment insurance coverage, becoming the first state executive to officially refuse any part of the federal government’s payout to states.

In a statement, Jindal . . . expressed concern that expanding unemployment insurance coverage would lead to increased unemployment insurance taxes later on.

“The federal money in this bill will run out in less than three years for this benefit and our businesses would then be stuck paying the bill,” Jindal said. “We must be careful and thoughtful as we examine all the strings attached to the funding in this package. We cannot grow government in an unsustainable way.”

Jindal is one of a small group of Republican governors, which includes South Carolina’s Mark Sanford and Mississippi’s Haley Barbour, who have said they might refuse some or all of the stimulus money targeted to their states.

Well, here's an interesting idea.  What DOES happen when states actually refuse federal stimulus money?  Will the "big government-cheerleaders in DC flip out and try to insist?  There's such a thing as "states' rights," after all.

Anyway, Jindal has a point about the future.

PS:  Just you wait and see.  Pretty soon, Jindal's opponents will be screaming something totally reductive and misleading like "Jindal hates poor people."  It's only a matter of time.  Or, even more predictable, someone will play the race card against him. 

UPDATE:  More here when Jindal went on "Meet the Press."  Here's a bit of the transcript:
MR. GREGORY:  You have a budget shortfall in Louisiana of $2 billion.  Now, under the stimulus plan by the Obama administration, you would get a cut of that.  You'd get $4 billion in federal stimulus.  But this is what you said on Monday about the stimulus plan:  "We're going to have to review each program, each new dollar to make sure that we understand what are the conditions, what are the strings and see whether it's beneficial for Louisiana to use those dollars." And just Friday you made good on that pledge not necessarily to take the federal money, saying that you would reject almost $100 million in federal unemployment assistance.  Why would you turn this money down?

GOV. JINDAL:  Well, let's be clear.  The best thing that Washington could do to help Louisiana and all of our states with our budgets is to get this economy moving again.  I think we just have a fundamental disagreement here. I don't think the best way to do that is for the government to tax and borrow more money.  I think the best thing they could've done, for example, was to cut taxes on things like capital gains, the lower tax brackets, to get the private sector spending again.  I think they had a provision the net operating losses to help small businesses.  Unfortunately, they slimmed that down.  They could've done some things on a real energy policy.  If all they do is borrow federal money and give it to the states, all we're really doing is delaying the inevitable.  We're eventually going to have to make these hard choices anyway.  In Louisiana we made midyear reductions, $241 million.  We're going to have to do more with less.  What would be more helpful from Washington is less unnecessary spending.  How does $300 million for federal cars, $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, how is spending like that going to help our economy?  How's that stimulus?

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