Republican Governors Leery of 'Stimulus'

The Associated Press’s Beth Fouhy reports that there’s enthusiasm among GOP Governors for the spending plan being debated in Congress:

Most Republican governors have broken with their GOP colleagues in Congress and are pushing for passage of President Barack Obama’s economic aid plan that would send billions to states for education, public works and health care.

Their state treasuries drained by the financial crisis, governors would welcome the money from Capitol Hill, where GOP lawmakers are more skeptical of Obama’s spending priorities.

If true, it wouldn’t be a surprise. After all, for the nation’s Governors, this would effectively be ‘free’ money coming at a time of extreme budget challenges. Who wouldn’t push for it? But while it might seem logical that they would, I can’t see any evidence on the public record that ‘most Republican Governors’ are ‘pushing for passage’ of the debt plan.

In Touhy’s piece, she cites Florida’s Charlie Crist and Vermont’s Jim Douglas among those pushing for enactment (but elsewhere Crist seems decidedly unenthusiastic). I can also find evidence that Connecticut’s Jodi Rell is lobbying for it, Alabama’s Bob Riley seems eager for it to pass, and it’s obvious that Arnold Schwarzenegger is an enthusiastic supporter. But among the 22 Republican Goverors, those 5 are the only strong supporters I can find — at least based on the results of a good deal of searching on Google News.

Alaska’s Sarah Palin supports the transportation component of the package. I can find no recorded position for Arizona’s new Republican Governor Jan Brewer, but the state assumes enactment of the stimulus package to help close a budget shortfall. Hawaii’s Linda Lingle is anticipating passage as well. Jim Gibbons is characterized in several places as a supporter, though I don’t see a formal statement. Rhode Island’s Don Carcieri ‘has great ways to spend it.’ Mike Rounds (SD) and Jon Huntsman (UT) sound like backers. Tim Pawlenty (MN) says he wouldn’t refuse the money, and John Hoeven (SD) sounds like has plans for the cash, too.

Georgia’s Sonny Perdue is clearly not counting on the money, but I can’t find any formal position for him. Butch Otter of Idaho falls into the same category. Nebraska’s Dave Heineman is proceeding with budget cuts regardless of the outcome of the Congressional debate.

Indiana’s Mitch Daniels expresses great misgivings about the plan, but ‘hopes it works.’ The package is outright opposed by Rick Perry (R-TX), Mark Sanford (R-SC), and Haley Barbour (R-MS). Bobby Jindal (R-LA) says he would have voted against the bill, (but will take the money if it comes).

So of 22 Republican Governors, 5 are taking whacks at the pinata, 4 are trying to knock the sticks out of their hands, 3 of them have got firm plans to go without whatever may hit the floor, and 10 are opportunistically waiting to see what they get. I don’t see how that translates into ‘most Republican governors’ pressing for Congress to pass the plan — at least unless Fouhy has access to more information that I missed, and which doesn’t appear in her article.

And of course, the nature of the debate makes it hard for a Governor to oppose this windfall — who wants to explain budget cuts to the voters while money is left on the table? The view of Pawlenty, Hoeven, and several others is the most fiscally conservative attitude consistent with their self-interest: that of not endorsing the plan, but taking the money anyway. Nevertheless 7 Republicans actually oppose the plan or are refusing to take the funds — a position that actually hurts them politically.

You would expect all 50 of the nation’s governors to be begging for this help. In fact, very few Republican governors are doing so despite the obvious incentive. The Associated Press gets the headline exactly wrong.