Barbour will take most of stimulus

WASHINGTON – After all of Gov. Haley Barbour’s criticisms of the $787 billion stimulus package, Mississippi is expected to accept most of the money the plan would provide the state.

As hundreds of millions of stimulus dollars begin to be available to state and government agencies, Barbour has indicated he’ll only reject a sliver of the help – about $50 million of the more than $2.3 billion in the stimulus’ direct funding to the state.
Barbour’s main objection to the stimulus is that it would give states the option to extend unemployment benefits to part-time workers.

Barbour said doing so would hurt the state when federal money for the new benefits runs out in about two years. The state would have to discontinue the benefits to laid-off part-time workers or raise unemployment taxes on businesses to be able to continue the benefits, Barbour said.

Despite his criticisms of the stimulus plan – which were shared by fellow Republican governors Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Mark Sanford of South Carolina – Barbour has not said he’d reject any of the remaining 98 percent of the money the stimulus plan would bring to the state.

Dan Turner, Barbour’s press secretary, said state agencies are still studying aspects of the stimulus package.

“This thing is so voluminous and has so many tentacles you have to check it all out,” Turner said.

Marty Wiseman, head of the Stennis Institute at Mississippi State University, said Barbour’s tough position on the stimulus was part pragmatism and part politics.

Wiseman said Barbour’s honest wish to avoid burdening the state with a costly new program led to his rejection of the stimulus money for unemployment benefits for part-time workers.

But Barbour was also following national Republican Party guidelines with his criticisms of the stimulus package, Wiseman said.

“I think you’ll see Haley Barbour concerned more and more with getting the Republican Party back on the road,” Wiseman said.

Mississippi has not commented on the $137 million it has received as a first installment of about $750 million it is due in stimulus Medicaid funds.

Mississippi is slated to receive more than $392 million for an array of education programs that include Pell grants to college students and pre-school, special education and athletic programs.

The state would also receive another $479 million to spend on education in more flexible ways, including restoring Barbour’s cuts to the Mississippi Adequate Education Program.

Other state agencies are already spending stimulus money, or are close to doing so. The Mississippi Department of Employment Security began this week to increase unemployment benefits by $25 a week, thanks to new money from the stimulus plan.

And the Mississippi Department of Transportation hopes to offer contracts from work on roads and bridges this month with the $350 million it will receive from the stimulus.

Local governments in the state are also receiving tens of millions of dollars in federal grants and allocations.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development has already provided Hattiesburg with some money to house the homeless and rehabilitate abandoned homes.

Hattiesburg Mayor Johnnie DuPree hopes to use $2.2 million in road repair funds for road paving and new traffic signals.

“This is better than Christmas; you knew Christmas was coming,” DuPree said of the unexpected benefits from the stimulus plan.




One Response to “Barbour will take most of stimulus”

  1. Barbour to Accept Most of Stimulus Proceeds | Doug Jumper Says:

    […] Article from Tupelo Talk (T-Town Talk): […]

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