States Addicted to Federal Spending? Rhetoric Against Spending Far From Reality

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As debates over the budget and the deficit escalate and the small-government, cost-cutting Tea Party gains more clout in Washington, federal programs are coming under fire. But at the same time, federal dollars increasingly are in demand, according to an ABC News analysis.

For all the rhetoric against federal spending and encroachment on states' autonomy, governors rely heavily on federal funds, especially given the weak economy. Not one governor turned away all the federal stimulus money offered to their states and, despite opposition to the Democrats' health care plan, governors continue to take in the money that law allocated.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., founder of the Senate Tea Party caucus, has advocated for the abolishing of the Department of Education. But doing so could have heavy consequences for the Bluegrass State. Federal funds accounted for about 20 percent of public school funding in fiscal year 2010, according to the Kentucky Department of Education, and cutting the department could take away more than $1 billion from Kentucky's schools.

Even in other areas, Kentucky is heavily dependent on federal funds, even though Paul and the state's other outspoken Republican, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have railed against government spending.

Per capita federal spending amounts to more than $11,500 in fiscal year 2009, making Kentucky the 12th-ranked state for dependence upon federal funds, according to the Census bureau.

Other conservative states whose leaders have assailed federal money also rely heavily on dollars from D.C.

Arizona, facing a projected budget shortfall of $763.6 million in fiscal year 2011, plans to use $101 million from federal funds to overcome part of that deficit, even though Gov. Jan Brewer has railed against the "fiscal manipulation" and interference of the federal government that she says is enroaching on Arizona's rights.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has led Republican governors in denouncing what he says is federal government stepping on state sovereignty, even going as far as to suggest Texas independence. But the state, despite its oil and state industry, is dependent on federal funds, given its $23 billion deficit.

Texas took more than $12 billion in stimulus funds alone in 2010. Appropriated federal funds for 2010-2011 year jumped 19 percent from the previous year.

Federal dollars make up about one-third of the state's budget, and in 2009, Texas received more than $35 billion from the federal government, second only to California and New York. In 2010, that figure jumped to more than $40 billion because of stimulus funds, which Perry said he opposed.

Even as voices against federal spending grow louder, states are more heavily relying on federal funds, given their own tight budgets.

In 2008, federal funds accounted for about 26.3 percent of state government spending, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers. In 2009, that figure jumped to about 30 percent and in 2010, to 34.7 percent, because of Recovery Act funds.

Today, through about 1,200 grant programs, the federal government allocates about $600 billion annually to states, representing close to one-third of the typical state's budget, including Republican-leaning ones like Texas and Tea Party-heavy states like Arizona and Oklahoma.

"The number of grants and dollar amounts have generally risen over the years," said Richard Cole, a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington.

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