Some States Move to Bypass Governor to Receive Stimulus Funds
By Mikel Chavers, CSG associate editor
Lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled Mississippi House approved a resolution March 4 to bypass Republican Gov. Haley Barbour to accept all of the $2.8 billion in federal stimulus dollars for Mississippi, The Clarion Ledger reports.
The resolution—House Concurrent Resolution 64—certifies the legislature’s intention to request and use all of the money, even if the governor rejects part of the funds. The resolution passed the House 69 to 52 after a three-hour partisan debate, according to The Clarion Ledger.
Mississippi Rep. Omeria Scott is the principal author of the resolution and did not immediately return attempts seeking comment.
It’s unlikely the resolution will pass the Senate. “I would resist any effort by the legislature to override the governor’s decision regarding accepting or declining the federal funds from President Obama’s Economic Stimulus Plan. I trust and respect Gov. Barbour and I urge the legislature to be prudent and responsible in spending any money that the State of Mississippi accepts from the federal plan,” Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, also the senate president in Mississippi, said in a statement to State News.
“I also want to make sure the stimulus package does not turn out to be a Trojan horse that will unleash burdensome federal mandates on the hard working taxpayers of Mississippi,” Bryant said.
Barbour isn’t the only governor who has said he won’t accept all of the funds from the stimulus package. In South Carolina, Gov. Mark Sanford hasn’t decided whether he wants to accept all the stimulus funds.
When asked about the stimulus funds in general, Joel Sawyer, a spokesman for the South Carolina governor’s office said, “We’re still going through the rest of the bill right now.”
And the legislature so far seems to be for accepting the funds no matter what the governor decides. As for specific plans in place, “No heroics at this point,” said South Carolina Rep. Joan Brady. “The legislature plans to take some budget stabilization money, regardless of the governor’s intentions. The governor has not given the legislature any direction as to whether or not he will accept applied for grants.”
The beginning of a 45-day window for each state to claim the funds allocated to it by the act started when President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law Feb. 17.
In order to receive funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, governors have 45 days from Feb. 17 to certify that they will first “request and use” funds from the stimulus, and secondly, use them to create jobs and promote economic growth, according to www.recovery.gov. Should a governor not accept the funds during the 45-day window, the state’s legislature has the option to bypass and certify the state on those conditions anyway.
For a list of what states have been certified, go to http://www.recovery.gov/?q=content/state-certifications.