Perry, Hutch Agree on One Thing – No Cash for Clunkers

As Gov. Rick Perry and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison head toward an epic primary showdown in the race to be Texas governor, the two haven't been able to agree on much lately.

But the two GOP powerhouses were able to find common ground in at least one area Wednesday: their opposition to the popular "cash for clunkers" federal stimulus program.

Hutchison's Capitol office released a statement Wednesday, saying she planned to vote against a $2 billion appropriation for the program, in which consumers get a federal subsidy for trading in their gas-guzzling autos for greener cars.

"Whatever short-term gain we might receive from this spending is more than outweighed by the long-term debt and financial burden we are passing on to future generations," Hutchison said. "We don't even have a report on how much has been spent on this program, nor reliable estimates of future requirements. It would be irresponsible to pass on another $2 billion with so little information."

Perry spokesman Mark Miner was quick to follow up with his own statement, saying, "Governor Rick Perry is opposed to the program."

But even in their agreement, the campaigns found a way to keep the debate heated.

"After years of deficits, earmarks and bailouts, this is yet another example of the federal government offering a program it can't pay for," Miner said, taking a jab a the federal government and, by proxy, Hutchison.

Hutchison's campaign criticized Perry for opposing a federal program that's almost identical to a state program he signed into law eight years ago.

"Apparently, what Rick Perry thought was good prior to his re-election bid -- raising taxes to subsidize car purchases -- is politically bad for him now," Hutchison campaign spokesman Jeff Sadosky said. "Just like changing position on property rights, business taxes, stimulus dollars and even debates, Rick Perry was for government subsidies for car purchases before he was against them."

The campaign pointed to legislation Perry signed in 2001 designed to increase registration fees for out-of-state vehicles from $1 to $225, to pay for pollution-reduction incentive programs. One of the initiatives provided incentives for purchasing low-emission and alternative fuel vehicles.

A spokesman for Democratic candidate Tom Schieffer declined to comment.

Hutchison announced her opposition as negotiations to save the dwindling "cash-for-clunkers" fund dragged out in the Senate on Wednesday. The government said it had spent $775.2 million of the $1 billion fund through late Tuesday, accounting for nearly 185,000 new vehicles sold. President Barack Obama has said the program would go broke by Friday if not replenished by Congress.

The new funding would triple the cost of the $1 billion rebate program and give as many as a half-million more Americans the chance to grab the new car incentives through September.

Car companies have credited the clunkers program with driving up sales in late July.

"This is difficult, because I am concerned about the treatment auto dealers have had in the government takeover of the auto industry," Hutchison said. "And while I believe the nation's auto dealers have suffered greatly and often times unfairly, the worst thing we can do is make them forever dependent on government giveaways."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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