Friday, February 27, 2009

Calling the GOP Governors’ Bluff

A couple of days ago, I posted this, wondering about a CNN article on how GOP governors, that is, southern states governors, can cherry pick what has become the law of the land. As it turns out, I was not alone, and someone who has actually read at least some of the Economic Recovery Act has the answer: While state governors, apparently can accept or not accept “any division of this act,” they are also not the sole deciders in this.

Section 1607 of the act (now law) that says exactly this:

“SEC. 1607. (a) Certification by Governor - Not later than 45 days after the date of enactment of this Act, for funds provided to any State or agency thereof, the Governor of the State shall certify that: (1) the State will request and use funds provided by this Act; and (2) the funds will be used to create jobs and promote economic growth.”

“(b) Acceptance by State Legislature - If funds provided to any State in any division of this Act are not accepted for use by the Governor, then acceptance by the State legislature, by means of the adoption of a concurrent resolution, shall be sufficient to provide funding to such State.”

Get that?

If a state governor decides to give a pass to federal funds that would extend unemployment benefits to those that they do not now cover, state legislatures can override their bad decision.

See? Section 1607 spreads the wealth. Governors cannot take sole blame for their unemployed voters not getting the federal aid, blame extends to any state legislature, and their majority voting members, as well, should they fail to override their governor.

This is particularly bittersweet in that we have in the New York Times today an article that sounds the opinions of unemployed voters in affected states. Particularly interesting to me, is that the article features a photo of Governor Rick Perry top and left. Here it is at right. I would try to caption this without too much tongue in cheek, but I still can’t seem to come up with a quote that is printable on this page unless I want to forego my PG rating.

Here is what the unemployed workers (voters) are saying about their governors’ threats to reject their unemployment benefits for them:

TEXAS: “It just seems unreasonable that when people probably need the help the most, that because of partisan activity, or partisan feelings, against the current new administration, that Perry is willing to sacrifice the lives of so many Texans that have been out of work in the last year.”

SOUTH CAROLINA: “I don’t understand the whole thing, Apparently because he [S.C. Governor Mark Sanford] has money and he doesn’t have to worry about everybody else who doesn’t have money.”

GEORGIA: “I don’t think he [GA governor Sonny Perdue] truly understands the plight of his citizens. He’s surrounded by people with good jobs, who make good salaries. He’s not surrounded by people like me.”

Governors have defended themselves saying that the federal rules would mandate a changing of state law to allow the funds to flow to those who are at present uncovered by unemployment benefits, something they don’t want to have in place when the federal money dries up.

They don’t want to have to take up the burden mandated by the feds, once the fed money goes away.

And rightly so. Except for the fact that there is nothing in the law says that the states can’t revert to their old rules once the federal money goes away, presumably when the crisis has passed.

Well, then it just gets better now, doesn’t it? Not only will southern state governors have to explain to their unemployed citizens (aka voters) why they are refusing to allow the feds to help them through difficult times, the members of their state legislatures are also in the same boat.

And the sweetener is that their arguments about this law mandating that states change state law is nothing but smoke and mirrors.

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