POLITICO Q and A: Gov. Haley Barbour
Q: House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said this week that for Southern governors, including you, to refuse stimulus aid would be a “slap in the face” to their black constituents. Do you have any response to that?
A: I didn’t see that comment. I don’t know of anybody who takes the position that their state shouldn’t take any of the stimulus money.
It appears to me that most of the money has very minor requirements, but there are a few examples of requirements that would force changes in state policies that some states may consider unacceptable.
Apparently this law would require the states to pay unemployment to people not willing or able to work full time in order to get any participation in that $7 billion. When the federal money runs out that would require us to raise unemployment insurance taxes on our employers.
I would’ve voted against this bill. I just believe this bill is way too big, that you could create about as many jobs for about half as much money. There’s a tremendous amount of social policy in this bill. But I don’t know anybody who said there shouldn’t be some kind of stimulus package and I don’t know any governor who said we won’t take any of the money.
Q: You said during the stimulus debate that a trillion dollars is a terrible thing to waste. Is your basic concern that it’s wasteful, or as a governor are you mostly concerned about the strings attached?
A: As a governor, in my day job, I’m mostly concerned about the effects on state policy. As a father and a grandfather, I’m more concerned about the unnecessary burdens placed on my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
There are many Democrats in my state who are disappointed there’s so little money for infrastructure. They thought we were going to get two or three times more money for roads and bridges. There’s a huge amount of money in here that doesn’t have anything to do with that, or much to do with job creation, and I, as a taxpayer, father and grandfather, I would have preferred a less expensive bill focused on creating jobs.
Q: Are there any stimulus measures you’re taking in Mississippi, or that you’re considering taking in Mississippi, that you’d like to see the federal government take a look at that they, maybe, haven’t considered so far?
A: During my administration we have put much heavier emphasis on workforce development and job training, helping our working people improve their skills. President Obama included some funds in the stimulus package specifically aimed at workforce development, job training. I applaud that.
While our fiscal problems in Mississippi are not insignificant, they’re not as bad as some states. You know, our revenue is about three and a half percent below the estimate. Thus far, our revenue has held up a little better than a lot of people.
hattip Jere Nash – REDBLUE