Perry's Big Decision

Legislators pressure Perry to take stimulus funds.

Rumors have spread for weeks that Gov. Rick Perry might not accept stimulus funds, but few took these rumors seriously. They could easily fast forward a few months in their minds to election time and hear Perry saying at rallies, “I didn’t want to take the funds. I really wanted to take a stand against Washington spreading tidal waves of cash, but I was pressured to, I had to do it.” Maybe even, “I was the one of the only governors who disagreed with it so much that he wanted to take a stand against it.” And it’s fine and good that he did.

Nobody thought he would actually do it. But state legislators are starting to get worried he’s not all talk and no action, especially if roughly half a dozen other governors join him, including Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter.

But Perry could also merely be looking at the consequences of taking the funds, which are being made evident from places like a report from the Rockefeller Institute, which calls the stimulus package a temporary fix at best.

“Even under the most optimistic of scenarios, state tax collections will not return to pre-recession levels until well after the 2011-2012 fiscal year, when the bulk of new assistance for states will end. At that time, states will once again face severe budget gaps,” the study finds.

At a press conference Tuesday arranged by several Senate Democrats, many spoke out urging Perry to accept the money, regardless of the strings attached.

One of those strings is a requirement that states give unemployment insurance benefits to part-time workers, such as college students and mothers with small children. Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, has already introduced a bill that would implement that change.

Many of Perry’s constituents are also decrying the amount of money going toward toll road projects. Last week transportation commissioners approved $500 million in road maintenance funds, 70 percent of which would go toward toll or toll-related projects.

Despite the uproar from both sides of the stimulus legislation debate, Perry has yet to make a decision, and will not do so until a later, unspecified date.

Holly LaFon is a journalist who has written and worked for various area publications including D Magazine and Examiner.

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