Stimulus Money Meets Mixed Reactions From States

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Around the country, the lights in governors' offices have been burning late as staff members digest the details of the new federal stimulus package Congress passed on Friday. Reactions have been mixed.

The agreement between House and Senate leaders on a $789 billion stimulus bill was only a few hours old when Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota went on MSNBC to criticize it. He said it was too heavy on spending and too light on tax cuts. But despite ideological objections, Pawlenty said he'll cash the check. "Minnesota pays way more into the federal government than we take out, so we are a very significant net contributor. So we're not gonna feel bad about taking the money."

Next door, South Dakota's Republican Gov. Mike Rounds was quite a bit more gracious, saying he hopes the stimulus package works. And he said South Dakotans likely will start to see changes from it as soon as next week, when the Legislature will start plugging state budget holes with federal money.

"And that may very well allow them to slow down some of the cuts that we've had to propose earlier, not knowing what the federal assistance might be," Rounds said.

Neither of the governors said the federal stimulus package will completely resolve their state's budget crisis.

In Colorado, Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter said there are still plenty of difficult decisions to make. Still, he's a big fan of the package and says the focus on lower-income people is a good thing. Ritter cites the boost in Medicaid funding and extended unemployment benefits.

"People who are unemployed wind up spending that money — it becomes a hand-to-mouth existence, certainly," Ritter said. "And you can assist the economy by assisting unemployed people. And I think you'll see that."

Ritter says that money will start circulating through the economy right away.

Among Democratic governors, a few are willing to inch toward criticism and say they'd expected to see more money from the package than they will. Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire says she was disappointed when the Senate passed its version of the stimulus package and slashed the amount dedicated to roads and bridges. In the end, Washington state got just over half a billion dollars.

"Our expectations were far greater than that," Gregoire said. "We expected in the billions." She says that means some job-creating projects in the Evergreen State won't happen right now.

"So there will be disappointments, no question about it," she says. "But in the long haul, as President Obama put it, it may not be perfect, but let's get going."

That's the attitude a lot of governors seem to have in response to the federal stimulus package. Florida's Republican Gov. Charlie Crist took some heat from GOP colleagues in his state for supporting the legislation. Crist explained his position at a press conference Friday in St. Petersburg, Fla.

"We're talking about where these additional $1.3 billion for transportation alone are gonna be going," he said. "You know, several months ago there was zero coming. So this is something we ought to be very happy about and celebrate. And it's going to produce tens of thousands of jobs for our fellow Floridians, and that's exactly what they need."

Perhaps the most interesting gubernatorial responses to the stimulus package came from Louisiana's Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal. He told The Associated Press he's not sure the state will take all the money it's eligible to receive — he said it depends on what strings are attached.



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