- The Washington Times - Monday, February 23, 2009

Top Democratic governors representing politically moderate to conservative states cautioned Sunday that they will have to be prudent with federal stimulus money while shoring up their respective budgets.

Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, said he would veto any measure passed by the state legislature which uses stimulus funds to create new ongoing spending.

“I will not allow my legislature - I will veto if it comes to that - to use one time money to prop up ongoing spending programs,” Mr. Schweitzer told The Washington Times on Sunday morning.

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, a term-limited Democrat who recently was picked by President Obama to run the national Democratic Party, said that because of the state’s budget schedule he submitted a budget that did not rely on stimulus spending to close a two-year, $3.7 billion budget shortfall.

Still he cautioned lawmakers that with state tax collections still slumping, they’re not free to start increasing spending yet.

“I met with my budget conferees Friday … I told them ‘Look, don’t create a structural imbalance with the one-time money,’ ” Mr. Kaine told The Times on Sunday, adding that many lawmakers in Virginia share his view.

The nation’s governors met in Washington this past weekend to discuss how they will spend extensive federal aid for education, transportation and health care projects from the $787 billion stimulus bill Mr. Obama signed last week.

While Democratic governors, who outnumber their Republican counterparts 29 to 21, have lined up behind Mr. Obama’s stimulus plan, Republicans have split over whether to accept the federal money and the conditions that come with the aid.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, an Indian-American Republican who has been widely touted as a likely presidential candidate in 2012, rejected $100 million in jobless aid last week, saying he does not want to permanently increase taxes on businesses.

“The federal stimulus bill says it has to be a permanent change in state law if you take this state money,” Mr. Jindal told NBC’s “Meet The Press” on Sunday. “And so within three years the federal money’s gone, we’ve got now a permanent change in our laws, we have to pay for it, our businesses pay for it. I don’t think it makes sense to be raising taxes on Louisiana businesses during these economically challenging times.”

One day earlier, Mr. Schweitzer said Republican governors who don’t support Mr. Obama’s stimulus plan should give their share of the stimulus money to governors who back the president.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, said Sunday he would gladly accept money from any of his Republican colleagues who do not want money for their state.

“I think that the Republican Party or any party has to always think, when you make a decision, ‘Do I want to make a decision … that’s best for the party? Or am I a public servant and have to serve the people, what is best for the people?’ ” Mr. Schwarzenegger said on ABC’s “This Week.”

“Governor Sanford says that he does not want to take the money, the federal stimulus package money. And I want to say to him: I’ll take it. I’m more than happy to take his money or any other governor in this country that doesn’t want to take this money, I take it, because we in California can need it,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said, referring to South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican and who has said he is likely to reject some of the stimulus funding.