Thursday, March 12, 2009

Gov. AMF continues GOP assault on poor Texans

Fresh on the heels of efforts to deny millions of Texans their vote, the worst of the Rabid Right -- led by their feckless leader in the governor's mansion $10,000 monthly taxpayer-funded rental house -- traveled to a luxury hardware store in Houston and rejected stimulus funds extending unemployment benefits for out-of-work Texans:

Gov. Rick Perry set up a possible battle with the Legislature today by rejecting about $555 million from the federal government for expanded aid to unemployed Texans on grounds that the money would come attached with too many costly obligations.

Perry announced his refusal of the funds in Houston at a Bering’s Hardware store near the Galleria, where a store official said accepting that share of the nation’s so-called stimulus package might mean having to pay an additional $12,000 a year in unemployment insurance.

"Employers who have to pay more taxes have less money to make their payroll" and would have to raise prices on their products, the governor said. "The calls to take the (stimulus) money and sort out the consequences later are quite troubling to me."

Discombobulated as he is, perhaps he just shouldn't be making any important decisions.

The stimulus package signed by President Barack Obama allows for state legislatures to bypass the type of rejection Perry made today. Around the time of the Republican governor’s announcement, Republican Jim Pitts of Waxahachie, chairman of the Texas House Appropriations Committee, voted to accept the half billion dollars in unemployment aid.

He was joined by four Democratic state representatives at an Austin meeting of a legislative committee studying the stimulus aid. Rep. Myra Crownover, R-Denton voted no.

Waco-based economist Ray Perryman today told the committee, headed by Democrat Jim Dunnam of Waco, that "we’re probably better off taking the money."

Without the funds, Perryman said the state’s unemployment fund is projected to run dry this year, possibly triggering higher unemployment insurance levies on employers even without the state’s acceptance of federal funds.

With an unemployment rate of 6.4 percent, rising but well below the rate of other big states, Texas reported a record loss of 77,800 jobs in January. The controversy is far from getting a full airing in the Republican-controlled state House and Senate, which would have to change several laws to fit stimulus package rules.

But Dunnam said it was time for lawmakers to take over from Perry.

"His statement is nothing more than grandstanding," he said. "This was really never the governor’s call."

This is nothing but kow-towing to the reactionaries in the Texas Republican Party who think Kay Bailey is a RINO, reflecting the spectacular ridiculousness of Texas Republicans in a world lately overrun with conservatives gone mad. It's just amazing to see how low these state officials will stoop in their quest to drive this state to the bottom.

(h/t to Phillip at BOR for the graphic)

Update: Harvey K at QR adds ...

Reps. Jim Dunnam (D-Waco) and Garnet Coleman (D-Houston) predicted today that Gov. Perry’s decision to reject $555 million in enhanced unemployment insurance aid would not play well in conservative circles once people realize that the state’s employers would have to make up that money through higher unemployment taxes.

“We’re talking doubling the tax on small employers,” Dunnam said while meeting with members of the Capitol press corps this morning. He said the facts in favor of accepting the aid would make it difficult for Perry to maintain his position.

He pointed to statements made by Bill Allaway of Texas Taxpayers and Research Association (TTARA) and the economist Ray Perryman yesterday in favor of taking the UI money. Perryman, who testified Thursday before Dunnam’s select committee on the federal stimulus package said that accepting the enhanced aid would have an immediate impact on the economy and would create $2.66 of economic impact for every $1 in aid. That’s due to the effect of the aid money flowing from unemployed workers into local businesses and through the rest of the economy.

And while Perry rests much of his argument against the aid as the long-term costs of expanding the unemployment insurance system outweighing the short-term gain of federal money, Perryman testified that it would take 10 years for the costs associated with expanding unemployment benefits to outstrip what the state would be receiving from the feds.

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