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Perry Asks for More Stimulus Funds on the Down-Low

The Texas governor asks for Medicaid money and tries to bite the hand that feeds him.
by Published on

Gov. Rick Perry likes to go on the campaign trail and denounce the stimulus program. But in a pattern that is becoming all too familiar, he takes his begging bowl to Washington when no one is looking and happily takes stimulus dollars to patch Texas’ leaky budget.

When 47 state and territorial governors sent a letter on Feb. 22 asking for more federal matching dollars for Medicaid, Perry refused to sign. He likes to talk about how he thinks the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is a waste of money.

Yet on Aug. 25 Perry wrote an unpublicized letter to Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary formally requesting that Texas receive the increased federal match for Medicaid. The extension is part of the Education Jobs and Medicaid Assistance Act, and gives states a 3.2 percent increase in the matching funds from January to March 2011, and a 1.2 percentage point increase from April to June 2011. Additional increases are available for each quarter during this period for states with high unemployment rates. This higher matching rate was originally slated to expire at the end of 2010.

Perry’s office released the letter only after the Observer inquired about Perry’s position on the matching funds. It appears the Obama administration has also grown weary of governors like Perry rejecting the stimulus program publicly, and then accepting the funds privately.

Sebelius wrote a you-better-check-yo-self letter on Aug. 16 letting governors know that although President Obama had signed off on the additional funds that 47 of them had requested, those funds would only be made available to states whose governors formally requested them. Apparently Perry blinked in this game of chicken and wrote his letter like a good governor should.

In an article for The Courier-Journal, Robert Dion, professor of political science at the University of Evansville said “the Obama administration is putting the governors in a corner ‘of their own making.’” He went on to write, “Clearly it sounds like an effort to get the president’s critics to think before they speak, or to police their own behavior a little better and try avoid acting in a way that’s hypocritical.”

A politician acting in a way that’s not hypocritical? Let’s not get too ambitious. Even within Perry’s brief, two-paragraph letter to Sebelius, he both requested the additional funds, and then criticized the administration for offering them.

It’s no question that these extension funds will provide relief to states in extreme budget crisis, like Texas. And there is no question that Perry continues to try to have his cake and eat it too.