- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 22, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) — Governors usually don’t argue about whether they should take money from the federal government, just how much they should get. Yet some chief executives are divided over President Obama’s economic stimulus plan and whether the billions it offers is always a good deal.

Gov. Haley Barbour, Mississippi Republican, has said he is considering turning down millions of dollars in unemployment aid because it would force his state to raise taxes when the stimulus money runs out by putting in place a tax on employers.

Gov. Bobby Jindal, Louisiana Republican, shares that concern about strings attached to stimulus dollars as well as the plan’s overall approach to dealing with the economic crisis.

“I don’t think the best way to do that is for the government to tax and borrow more money,” Mr. Jindal said Sunday on “Meet the Press” on NBC. “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.”

Republican governors in town for the National Governors Association meeting played down a split over the stimulus plan. Gov. Charlie Crist, Florida Republican, was among those who said they are behind the plan even if they have qualms about it.

“There are times when you’re in a crisis and we all need to work together in order to get through those crises. And I think that this is one of those times,” Mr. Crist said on NBC.

One congressman announced legislation Sunday to make it easier for states that want the money to get a share of the funds others pass up. Rep. Anthony Weiner, New York Democrat, said his proposal would reallocate funds from the five states — Alaska, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina and Idaho — that say they might reject some portions of their stimulus money.

“If some governors decide to reject the money, 45 other states should be able to use it to create thousands of jobs,” Mr. Weiner said. “We have plenty of projects across the country that will put people to work and help achieve long-term economic growth and stability.”

Gov. Mark Sanford, South Carolina Republican, has criticized the stimulus plan, as has Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the party’s 2008 vice presidential nominee who traveled to Washington last month to press for her state’s share of the money. Mrs. Palin, busy with her state’s legislative session, did not attend the NGA meeting.

Some Democrats took a harder line Saturday at a press conference arranged by the Democratic Governors Association to praise Mr. Obama for his leadership on the stimulus. Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, chairman of the DGA, and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley dismissed GOP detractors as “fringe” Republicans eager to score political points.

“All of us are committed to working with President Obama to pull our nation’s economy out of the ditch that George W. Bush ran it into,” Mr. O’Malley said. “If some of the fringe governors don’t want to do that, they need to step aside and not stand in the way of the nation’s interests.”

The line drew a rebuke from Mr. Sanford, the Republican Governors Association chairman.

“I think in this instance I would humbly suggest that the real fringe are those that are supporting the stimulus,” Mr. Sanford said. “It is not at all in keeping with the principles that made this country great, not at all in keeping with economic reality, not in keeping with a stable dollar, and not in keeping with the sentiments of most of this country.”

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