Governors To Obama: 'Thanks, But No Thanks'

A group of Republican governors, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, say they may not accept federal funds from the president's federal stimulus package, despite the current economic crisis.

NPR's Ken Rudin explains the fallout.

In South, Mixed Reaction To Stimulus Money

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Only three Republican senators voted for President Barack Obama's nearly $800 billion stimulus package, and many in the GOP are questioning the massive spending plan.

At least half a dozen Republican governors say they may reject some of the stimulus money, raising questions especially in struggling Southern states.

Getting the most attention is Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who gave the Republican response to Obama's speech and called the spending bill "irresponsible."

A young, fresh face for the GOP, Jindal said this week on NBC's Meet the Press he would reject $99 million in the stimulus package for unemployment insurance benefits. He says Louisiana would have to make long-term changes to its program, which would ultimately cost more.

"And so within three years, the federal money is gone. We've got now a permanent change in our laws. We have to pay for it. Our businesses pay for it," Jindal said Tuesday. "I don't think it makes sense to be raising taxes on Louisiana businesses during these economically challenging times."

Louisiana

At the Southfield Grill in Shreveport, La., residents have mixed opinions.

Don Lawler, a fireman for 24 years, says Jindal is doing the right thing by questioning the stimulus package.

"I think a lot of people see a lot of unnecessary spending with this so-called stimulus bill," Lawler says. "He's just not going to take whatever is spoon-fed to him by the federal government. He wants to be his own man. He wants to make his own decisions."

But David Hudson, a minister from Keithville, La., says Republicans are playing political football with people's lives.

"If you take the politics out of it, I think it would benefit the citizens here," he says. "What Gov. Jindal is doing is benefiting the so-called Republican Party, and I don't think it's no time for any partisan politics in this type of situation that we have."

Mississippi

Mississippi's GOP Gov. Haley Barbour joined the criticism of the stimulus plan, saying he will reject $56 million intended to help those who have lost their jobs. Barbour, a former Republican National Committee chairman, says accepting the money would mean increased taxes for businesses that would have to cover the cost of the extra unemployment benefits in the future.

"We want more jobs. You don't get more jobs by putting an extra tax on creating jobs," Barbour says.

At the state capitol in Jackson, residents held a rally Wednesday to protest Barbour's decision.

"Take the money, Haley," the chanted. "Take the money, Haley."

Georgia

In Georgia, Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue met with the heads of state agencies Wednesday to discuss the stimulus package. Perdue has questioned whether he will accept $220 million for Georgia's unemployment program. The money would extend unemployment insurance benefits to part-time workers who have lost their jobs, something many states have never done.

At the historic Varsity restaurant in Atlanta, some don't agree with the Southern governors' reaction to the stimulus money.

"I mean, you're supposed to serve your people," says Dale Cartwright, a union member who works at a local paper-packaging plant. "And you think about those states as not the richest in country. Some of them are some of the poorest.

"You got a chance to help out people in your own state and you're not doing it because you want to be arrogant. It's unacceptable."

Emily Minor, who also works at the plant, agrees.

"Just because you lost the election, I don't feel like you should deny your people the support that they need to survive," Minor says. "And we should step up to the plate and recognize what we need to make this country and get it back on the right track."

Many say Republicans and Democrats still don't get it. They would like the acrimony to stop and see both parties start working together.

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