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Published:March 15th, 2009 19:28 EST

Louisiana Governor Debates Whether to Accept Stimulus Money from Congress

By Philip Lawrence

No one likes the fact that we are in a global economic crisis and few are happy that we are engaging in deficit spending in effort to pull out of it.  But the time for that debate has come and gone, the bill having passed and been signed into law by President Obama.  Only time will tell if the plan succeeds or fails. 

Recently, several Republican governors, mostly from southern states, have stated they are contemplating declining much or all of the federal stimulus money.  The first was Bobby Jindal, the governor of my state, Louisiana, who delivered an uninspiring speech on national television on February 24 when he provided the Republican response to President Obama`s address to the Joint Session of Congress.  Governor Jindal`s supporters argue his decision to reject the stimulus money is in line with his deeply-held political beliefs and fiscal policy of not spending money you don`t have.  His detractors argue he is engaging in political grandstanding, trying to court conservatives for a possible run for President in 2012, thereby placing his own political ambitions above the interests of the people of Louisiana whose interests he was elected to represent.

In response, state Democrats in Baton Rouge have said they will pass legislation to accept the stimulus money, a bill which Governor Jindal has stated he will veto when and if it reaches his desk.  The question would then become whether the legislature could muster the two-thirds vote in both houses to override the threatened veto.  Democrats do hold majorities in the Louisiana State Senate (22 to 15 with two vacancies) and the Louisiana House of Representatives (60 to 42 with one independent and one vacancy), enough to pass a bill to accept the stimulus money but not enough to override a veto without cross-over votes from Republicans which could happen since a majority of registered Republicans in the United States do support the stimulus plan.  For example, in a Gallup poll conducted from February 6 " 7, 2009, 51% of Americans said the stimulus bill is critically important, " 29% said it was important but not critical; " 16% said it was not important " and 4% had no opinion.  In that same poll, 29% of registered Republicans said it was critically important " and 37% important. "  Thus, 56% of Republicans said the stimulus bill is either critically important " or at least important. "

            Governor Jindal, a smart, articulate, and energetic man, is out of touch with America on this issue.  If he succeeds in rejecting the stimulus funds, the citizens of Louisiana will watch their tax dollars being spent to improve the education, infrastructure, and health care of other states.  And if the stimulus bill does create jobs, Louisiana will continue to experience a brain drain " whereby smart, educated, young people continue to leave Louisiana for better jobs in other states. 

Governor Jindal needs to decide whether he represents the National Republican Party or the people of Louisiana.  If he decides on the latter, he should give the Democrats some rope to take measures they believe will alleviate the current economic crisis and we should accept the stimulus money.  If the Democrats` plan works, that rope will help pull America out of this economic crisis.  If the plan fails, as many Republicans argue it will, it will be just enough rope for the Democrats to hang themselves.