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Posted by on Mar 12, 2009 in Economy | 41 comments

My Governor Rejects $555 Million for Unemployed Texans

I had read reports that Texas Gov. Rick Perry was planning to turn down $555 million that would expand our state’s unemployment benefits, because, allegedly, the money would have required the state to keep funding the expanded benefits after the stimulus money ran out.

So, in illusional hopes of perhaps persuading my Governor into accepting the money for the sake of present and future unemployed Texans, I wrote my customary Letter to the Editor to my local (Austin) newspaper a couple of weeks ago.

The letter was published yesterday, obviously too late and to no avail. It read:

Helping Texas’ jobless

Re: March 1 article “Texas jobless fund could need federal bailout.”

As part of the stimulus plan, Texas could receive $555 million in federal money to assist with paying unemployment benefits to needy Texans.

Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Tom Pauken said that with more people losing their jobs, a “real deficit” could come by September or October and the state might need to seek a federal loan to maintain the unemployment compensation trust fund.

Yet Gov. Rick Perry refuses to accept the $555 million because he doesn’t want more people to qualify for jobless benefits.

With 26,071 initial claims for benefits in Texas during the week of Feb. 14, compared with 11,226 for the same period one year ago, am I missing something here? Perhaps compassion and taking care of Texans in need — instead of ideology and partisanship?

I said “obviously too late and to no avail,” because the same newspaper reported a couple of hours ago, under the headline, “Perry rejects stimulus money for unemployment“:

Perry, an outspoken critic of President Barack Obama’s $787 billion stimulus bill, accepted most of the roughly $17 billion slated for Texas in the plan.

But the governor turned down the unemployment benefits because he said they would require the state to increase the tax burden on Texas businesses.

“During these tough times, Texas employers are working harder than ever to move products to market, make payroll and create jobs,” Perry said at a news conference at Bering’s, an upscale Houston hardware store. “The last thing they need is government burdening them with higher taxes and expanded obligations.”

But, how about the burden on hundreds of those those 25,000 or so Texans who apparently are losing their source of income every week, Governor. (In January of this year, the Texas unemployment rate jumped to 6.4 percent.)

How about those thousands of Texas families who don’t know where their next meal will come from, Governor?

According to the Austin American Statesman, Perry’s announcement was immediately criticized by Democratic lawmakers and advocates for low-income residents:

“Without this federal money, Texas businesses face increased unemployment insurance taxes in bad times, and without the modest reforms in state law required to get the federal money, about 45,000 Texas workers will go without unemployment insurance,” said Don Baylor, a policy analyst for the Center for Public Policy Priorities.

Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, said rejecting the money “demonstrates the height of denial about the challenges confronting this state and its people.”

And,

“Governor Perry’s decision to reject the $555 million in unemployment aid is simply deplorable,” said Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston. “Texas families are hurting and are worried about how they are going to keep their homes and pay their bills. Today, Governor Perry told them: ‘good luck with that.’ If the Governor won’t do his job, we’ll have to go around him, and I am prepared to do just that.”

How does that song go, Governor? Something like “you picked a good time to leave me…four hungry children…”?

And for sure you picked a good place to tell us, Governor, “at a news conference at Bering’s, an upscale Houston hardware store.”

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