Yesterday Alaska Governor Sarah Palin announced she is rejecting 30% of the stimulus package (originally stated as 45% not including medicaid dollars). Conservatives 4 Palin has video and updates on this development. The jist for Governor Palin is that her administration did not want to request funds that would solely grow government and funds that had strings attached.
She is just the latest Governor to do so. Texas Governor Rick Perry said that he would not accept federal stimulus funding that would expand the state’s unemployment benefits. The reason is that Texas would have to continue to fund these benefits after the federal money ran out.
Also Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, and Alabama Governor Bob Riley have rejected the unemployment money. Some state legislatures are threatening to override these governors based on a provision in the stimulus bill.
“If funds provided to any State in any division of this Act are not accepted for use by the Governor, then acceptance by the State legislature, by means of the adoption of a concurrent resolution, shall be sufficient to provide funding to such State.”
The non-partisan Congressional Research Service’s recent report raises constitutional questions about this provision. Professor Ronald Rotunda, a constitutional law expert at the Chapman Law School also questions the constitutionality of this provision.
Professor Rotunda asks: If state law does not give the state legislature the right to bypass the governor, how can Congress just change that law? Where does Congress get the power to change a state constitution? Professor Rotunda observes: “It might appear quaint to note that the U.S. Constitution does not create a central government of unlimited powers. Congress only has those powers that the Constitution gives it either expressly or by implication. That’s a lot of power, to be sure, but it’s not unlimited.”
It is unconscionable on the part of President Obama and this Democratic Congress to usurp state constitutions based on a result that they were anticipating from some Governors who were not in favor of the stimulus package.
To those Governors who are looking out for the long-term fiscal health of your state, good for you! I hope that state legislatures will realize that while this provision is in the stimulus package, it is not in the best interest of their state to bypass their Chief Executives.