Offered Millions, Some Govs Just Say No

At least four reject some stimulus funds; Dems say they only hurt their states.

ByABC News
February 21, 2009, 8:19 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2009— -- The nation's governors descended on the capital this weekend to consider how to spend their share of the $787 billion economic stimulus and to lay the groundwork for more federal largess to come.

Nearly all the governors have been demanding help from Washington for months, and 46 states are facing budget shortfalls. Some have already been forced to lay off workers. So they need the money, but at least four Republican governors say they will turn at least some of it away.

Leading the critics was South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.

"The stimulus is a huge mistake," Sanford told ABC News, "a political promise that's been made but not paid for."

Sanford said he would reject unemployment insurance because of what he said were federal strings attached to it, and also said he would not take $42 million in funding for green buildings.

Like Sanford, Republican Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi said he would reject the federal unemployment extension money, which requires that states extend the benefits to workers laid off from part-time jobs.

"We will not be accepting unemployment insurance money because it requires us to have a significant tax increase in the future," Barbour told ABC. "Most states like Mississippi do not allow people to get unemployment compensation unless they are willing and able to take a full-time job."

Democratic Rep. James Clyburn, from Sanford's own state of South Carolina, has said that if the governor stands in the way, the state legislature will go around him to get the money, thanks to a provision Clyburn inserted in the stimulus that allows them to do so.

Clyburn has said that African-Americans would be disproportionately hurt by governors of southern states -- including South Carolina and Mississippi -- rejecting stimulus funds, because those states are part of the "black belt," but Sanford called the assertion "absurd."

Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, the head of the National Governors Association, which sponsored the event this weekend, had a message for the gubernatorial critics.