Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Utah Legislature: "We Don't Need Your Stinkin' Money"

Or at least not all of it, you can keep the parts that you tell them what to spend it on, that part to cover their half billion dollar budget shortfall, they'll take that part. Senator Hillyard, chairman of the appropriations committee has been flogging the stimulus for the past few weeks, citing everything from deficit spending to poor stock market performance to suggest how bad of an idea the stimulus is. He's even taken his dog and pony show to your teevee.

And one more phrase Utah lawmakers don't like is - "strings attached."

Sen. Lyle Hillyard: "If there's much feeling there's strings of any significance, that within my body, I think there will be votes to say don't take it."

The strings attached part is a new twist, making its debut yesterday. I wonder what tomorrow will bring. With Hillyard's grandstanding becoming more and more evident, one begins to wonder, is he hiding something? Is there something he's trying to cover for? Well, yes, yes there is. For starters, spending the stimulus money (and I mean all of it) would be good for the state, how so? Well here we have Bernake, explaining how, for example, the increased unemployment benefits fit into the plan.
Let’s take a moment to recall that Ben Bernanke was appointed to his current position by George W. Bush. He’s not, in other words, a left-wing ideologue hell-bent on Europeanizing the United States. Or whatever. And listen to him about the impact of the stimulus-rejecting governors:

BERNANKE: If unemployment benefits are not distributed to the unemployed, then they won’t spend them and it won’t have that particular element of stimulus.

SEN. JACK REED (D-RI): So if this was done on a wide basis, it would be counterproductive, not productive?

BERNANKE: It would reduce the stimulus effect of the package, yes.
So some of those stimulus items would bring dollars into Utah, and people would spend them, having a stimulating effect on the economy? Right here in Utah?? Strange as it may sound, that's what would happen. Some in the legislature don't see it that way (you can usually spot them by the R next to their name), and they worry about the funding for some of these spending items after uncle sam stops sending them checks. But realistically we'd be in the same situation we were in a few weeks ago (you know, before the federal government bailed the legislature out). And our choices would be the same, cut programs, or increase revenue. If it were me, I'd increase revenue, and I'd start by getting rid of that flat tax. Also if the economy is stimulated revenue will be increased via taxes paid on additional/higher incomes. A rising tide lifts all ships.

In addition to being good for the state, it would also be fair for the state. Utah citizens are paying for the stimulus through their tax dollars. If it's not spent here in Utah then it will be spent somewhere. Now how many of us want our tax dollars that should have been coming back to Utah going somewhere else, benefiting another state's economy? Not many? I didn't think so.

I don't think that it being good for the state, or being fair for their constituents will be likely to sway many in the legislature (it generally doesn't, if they've made up their minds otherwise at least). Thankfully it's not entirely clear that they'll be given the choice on this one. Here we have Chuck Schumer, dashing the hopes of those looking for a stimulus line item pen.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) sent a letter to the White House Tuesday urging the administration to not allow GOP governors to reject certain parts of the $787 economic stimulus package.

The letter to Peter Orszag, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, obtained by The Hill, said that governors should not be able to pick and choose funding from the stimulus because that would “undermine the overall stimulative impact of the package.”

“I urge the administration to issue implementation guidance clarifying that while any governor may exercise his or her discretion to accept or reject the federal funds provided in the stimulus, no Governor should have the authority to arbitrarily adopt a select subset of the overall package,” Schumer wrote.

[...]"This was never intended by congress to be an a-la-carte menu," Schumer said. "It's a complete package — they ought to take it or leave it."

In the end, Schumer accused the governors of playing politics with the funding.

“No one would dispute that these governors should be given the choice as to whether to accept the funds or not. But it should not be multiple choice,” he wrote. “The composition of the package was rightly dictated by economic considerations; we should not let the implementation of the package be dictated by political considerations.”

Ah political considerations. Now the real question, what do you do when you're in a Republican controlled legislative body and you've managed to get your state into a half billion dollar budget shortfall and the federal government offers to help out as a part of it's own economic stimulus package? Well, you certainly can't jump for joy, this was the Obama stimulus, passed by Democrats in congress. No you must hide your excitement over the fact that Democrats in DC have just saved you from weeks more of embarrassing budget discussions. You must do this by coming up with every reason you can possibly think of as to why the stimulus won't work, and you need to say this as many times as possible. After all, if you don't do this, or (gasp) if you act excited the Republicans here will know you're not really one of them, and you'll surely be without a part time job after the next election.


  1. Hopefully Utah republicans would show enough integrity to reject the ill-conceived stimulus whether it came from a Democrat or a Republican administration.

    I am baffled how anyone who supported the balanced budgets and very small deficits of the Clinton administration could now claim that multi-trillion-dollar deficits are just peachy.

  2. Frank balanced budgets and small deficits have nothing to do with stopping a recession from becoming a depression. In fact, focusing on balanced budgets at the wrong time can be a bigger blow to a shrinking economy. The deficit is frightening, now doubt, but we will be even longer getting out from underneath it if we don't turn our economy around first.