Brother, can you spare a dime for Rick Perry?

The Texas governor didn't want stimulus money for his state, but now he needs a loan

By Alex Koppelman
Published July 18, 2009 2:15AM (UTC)
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It wasn't so long ago that Texas Gov. Rick Perry didn't want the federal government's money.

Back in April, Perry was talking about the 10th Amendment, saying "the federal government has become oppressive .... oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of its citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state.” A little later, he seemed to endorse the idea of at least thinking about secession, though he later walked that back. And he fought his state legislature in order to reject more than $500 million in funding from the stimulus that was supposed to help Texas pay unemployment benefits.

Now, though, he needs to make up for a shortfall -- one that would have been covered by the money he rejected. So he's turning to the federal government, and asking for a loan. Right now, the state is only requesting $170 million, but an Austin television station quotes the Texas Workforce Commission's Ann Hatchitt as saying, "We are expecting the need to borrow about $650 million from the federal govenrment through October 1st." (Hat-tip to Political Hotsheet.)

There's a major difference between the money Texas is seeking now and the money it rejected: The stimulus funding didn't have to be paid back. This does. Still, Perry argues that the stimulus money came with strings that would have meant expanding the program and costing Texas and state businesses more over the long run. His critics, he says, "are shortsighted and probably criticizing for a political reason rather than a legitimate financial reason."

Either way, Perry's basically stuck between a rock and a hard place here. He's up for reelection in 2010, and facing a strong primary opponent in Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Fighting the stimulus was a good political play, as Hutchison appeals more to moderate Republicans than Perry does and he needs to shore up his conservative base, but Hutchison will also try to make him pay a price come Election Day for going back to the feds, hat in hand. Plus, governors tend to get the blame for bad economic times, and any financial shortfalls won't help him at the ballot box.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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