It didn’t take long for Gov. Haley Barbour to express his displeasure over the $26 billion state-aid legislation President Barack Obama signed into law Tuesday.
In a press release his office issued Aug. 9, Barbour said the bill would force Mississippi’s budget into a re-write in order for the state to accept the $98 million for public education and $130 million for Medicaid.
The state’s budget for fiscal year 2011 has been set since June. Proponents of the bill claim it will rehire laid off teachers or keep those teetering on the edge of unemployment in the classroom. Travis Childers, D-Booneville, and Bennie Thompson, D-Bolton, voted for it. Gene Taylor, D-Bay St. Louis, and Gregg Harper, R-Pearl, voted against it. Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker both voted against it.
“There is no justification for the federal government hijacking state budgets, but that is exactly what Congress has done,” Barbour said in his statement.
So does that mean Barbour will call lawmakers back to Jackson to reconfigure the budget?
Not necessarily, said Barbour spokesman Dan Turner. The state has the option to decline the education money, or show a “maintenance of effort” to work it into the budget without having to redo the whole thing.
Which is the best option?
“Too soon to say,” Turner said.
The notion of whether to accept one-time federal money for a specific state expense got a lot of political run about a year and a half ago, when the original stimulus bill included for Mississippi $56 million for extended unemployment benefits. Barbour and several other Republican governors refused to take it. Democrats wailed. It’s likely a similar scenario will play out this time around.