Missouri is the latest state to consider refusing federal money to make a stand for fiscal conservatism. The move seems especially austere, even in the face of the wide-spread struggle for states to balance their budgets. But Missouri is just one of a string of states that may be blocking federal money intended for unemployment benefits, transportation projects, and public schools.
Republican state Sens. Jim Lembke and Will Kraus say the state should turn down the $285 million offered by the federal government to help pay for the state’s jobless benefits and public-school funding. But other Republicans in both the House and Senate say the plan would hurt the state and would only have symbolic value once Missouri’s share gets rerouted to other states.
Texas is facing a bitter, partisan debate over how to use $383 million on its schools, which are short $10 billion. Before President Obama signed the federal legislation, Texas Democrats in the U.S. House added a provision that the money be used to supplement existing programs. They say Republicans in their home state were using the federal money in lieu of state funds that they wanted to spend elsewhere. But Republican Gov. Rick Perry is attacking the Washington Democrats for restricting the state’s economic competitiveness.
The Florida Supreme Court ruled on March 4 that it was constitutional for Gov. Rick Scott to refuse $2.4 billion for a high-speed rail line. The line would have connected Tampa and Orlando. The tea party-backed Scott went against the wishes of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who called the federal rail plan, “a crucial and strategic investment in America's future prosperity."
Before stepping into the crosshairs of union employees, Wisconsin lawmakers agreed to return $23 million for broadband Internet to the federal government. The loan would have boosted broadband connections in 380 Wisconsin communities, including 385 libraries and 82 schools, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. But should the state not meet that goal, taxpayers would have been held accountable for paying it back. Those attached strings were "simply not an acceptable risk," according to Mike Huebsch, secretary of Wisconsin's Department of Administration.
Nine States Refusing Unemployment Assistance
According to the National Employment Law Project nine states left a total of $876 million of unemployment assistance untouched. Those states are Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming. Some states, namely Iowa, Maryland, and Montana, are making efforts to pass legislation that would allow them to use the money. Others, such as the spokesperson for Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, said the money doesn't cover state workers and would require states to reach into their budgets to do so.