While I’m less than thrilled that Governors like mark Sanford of South Carolina and our own Rick Perry of Texas are adopting a piecemeal approach to the Stimulus Funds, at least they’re rejecting some of them.
Damn shame when you have to beg you legislators to do the right thing. Fortunately, there’s an election coming . . . right, Governor?
HOUSTON — From the center of a hardware store, Gov. Rick Perry ignited a debate about Texas job cuts, business taxes and President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus program Thursday by rejecting the federal government’s offer of $555 million in aid to the unemployed.
The action now moves to the Legislature, which can bypass Perry and take the offer as long as it changes state laws and blocks Republican Perry’s potential veto.
Perry said the money would come with too many strings attached. Taking the half-billion would require the state to assist qualified out-of-work residents seeking part-time jobs, an idea that Perry said the state has rejected before, partly because it could discourage them from seeking full-time employment.
The federal money injection also would make Texas extend benefits to more low-paid workers, and Perry said the overall expansion would force business to make higher unemployment insurance payments.
“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.”
Well, oddly enough, me too, Governor. I’m with you on this one — even if you are taking baby-steps. Meanwhile, another “stimulus project with strings attached is being blocked by a citizens’ lawsuit — even if we have needed this interchange for the last 20 years!
The $140 million in federal and state funds allocated for the building of long-awaited ramps linking North Loop 1604 and U.S. 281 could end up being sent back if two sides in a lawsuit can’t find common ground.
The Alamo Regional Mobility Authority hopes to use $80 million in federal stimulus funds and $60 million from state bonds — dubbed “money from heaven” by one local official — to start construction on the four ramps within a year. The ramps on the loop’s south side wouldn’t be tolled, according to plans.
(Could somebody please get that legislator a drool cup and a bib, please? Thank You.)
But lawyers for Aquifer Guardians in Urban Areas and Texans Uniting for Reform and Freedom are poised to challenge federal environmental clearance for the five-level interchange, saying there likely would be significant changes in traffic, suburban growth and Edwards Aquifer water quality.
The groups filed a lawsuit last year to demand a detailed environmental study of planned toll lanes on 47 miles of U.S. 281 and Loop 1604, and the Alamo RMA later decided to do so. The interchange should be part of that study, plaintiffs’ attorney Bill Bunch said Thursday.
“We certainly don’t think you should sacrifice San Antonio’s sole source of drinking water to do that,” he said. “We still have a lawsuit pending. It would probably be raised in that context.”
If the Alamo RMA were forced to probe the interchange’s impacts, work could be held up three or more years, and that means the federal stimulus funds could go unused.
The key word there is “toll roads,” which the Express-News article danced around nicely. The Stimulus funds would require 47 miles of U.S. 281, which are currently freeway road, to become toll roads — and the interchange funds are tied to the toll roads implementation.
This has been a long battle here in San Antonio. If you want a toll road, fine — just don’t take away our existing roads and make them toll roads. Until the Stimulus Bill the (mostly conservative) forces opposing the toll roads had prevailed over the (mostly Democrap) forces in favor of Toll Roads — and another form of taxing the Texas taxpayer.
Until the Stimulus.
Beware of Obama bearing gifts . . . even if it is “money from heaven.” (Yeesh!)