Texas Ranks Near Bottom in Stimulus Funds

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK

    Texas ranks near the bottom in federal stimulus funds received so far, according to a newspaper analysis of grants and contracts.

    The Dallas Morning News reported Monday that Texas has been approved for about $12.9 billion in stimulus grants and contracts, not including an estimated $4.2 billion received through the law's main individual tax credit. Adjusted for population, Texas' share of grants -- about $533 per person -- ranks 49th, according to the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board.

    Texas lawmakers complain that funding formulas are often written by lawmakers in small states, creating a disadvantage for big states. Texas also has fewer research universities, less subsidized housing and a smaller contribution to programs like Medicaid and unemployment insurance, so that means less emergency stimulus funds.

    "If you are looking for benefits, you don't move to Texas," said Sherri Greenberg, a public finance expert at the University of Texas' LBJ School of Public Affairs.

    The $787 billion stimulus flows through tax credits, student loans, Social Security checks, highway contracts, Medicaid, unemployment and several other programs.

    Medicaid accounts for 63 percent of stimulus outlays so far, yet most low-income, childless Texas residents can't get Medicaid. About 17 percent of Texas residents are enrolled in Medicaid, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

    "The fact that Texas is 50th out of 50 states in terms of children and adults insured for health care, that has not only hurt those families, it has cost us billions of federal dollars," said U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, a Waco Democrat who supported the stimulus. "That, along with the decision to reject $550 million in unemployment stimulus funding, certainly hurt the funding totals for Texas."

    Texas lawmakers gave up $565 million by not changing the unemployment benefits program. To get stimulus funds, states had to expand their programs to reach more unemployed workers, including part-timers. Only 20 percent of unemployed Texas residents received unemployment benefits during the second quarter of 2008, 49th among states, according to the National Employment Law Project.

    Many Republicans scoff at the idea that Texas is losing out. Gov. Rick Perry says accepting some stimulus funds, like the unemployment money, would require changes that would make the state less competitive.

    "Texans are kind of sick of having Washington take their money in the form of all these taxes and fees and what have you, and then dribbling it back to them -- and particularly, dribbling it back to them with all these strings attached," Perry said.

    But not all funds come with strings attached. The stimulus provided $8.2 billion to the National Institutes of Health for research projects for universities, nonprofits and businesses. So far, California universities have landed about $453 million for special projects, compared to $161 million for New York, $110 million for Pennsylvania and $91 million for Texas, according to NIH data.

    Most of the law's competitive grants, which are supposed to improve infrastructure and create jobs, have yet to be awarded.