President Barack Obama met Monday at the White House with the nation’s state governors to garner support for his $787 billion economic stimulus plan, promising that $15 billion of those funds would be released Wednesday to bolster state efforts to provide Medicaid coverage for the poor.
Some governors are excitedly supportive of the entire Obama plan and the allocation of more money.
“We are very anxious to see the loan modification program that the president is proposing as we think it will mesh very closely,” New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, a Democrat, said at a National Governors Association meeting on Sunday, speaking of his own state’s efforts to stave off foreclosures through court-ordered mediations.
Washington state Governor Chris Gregoire was eager to use federal funding for a similar program, saying, “We desperately need this federal solution.”
Yet many Republican governors have said they would refuse a portion of the offered funds, calling the stimulus package wasteful as well as unnecessary.
“If you look at the number of performing loans versus non-performing loans … the overwhelming bulk of folks across this country … are in fact paying down their mortgages,” South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, a Republican said. “There’s a real equity question as to when the folks who have been playing by the rules … have the person across the street bailed out.”
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, a Republican, worried about supporting parts of the Obama stimulus plan after the federal dollars stop coming. “If we were to take the unemployment reform package that they have, it would cause us to raise taxes on employment when the money runs out — and the money will run out in a couple of years.”
President Obama tried to assuage fears about the federal money being used inappropriately. “This is not a blank check,” Obama said. “We’re going to work with you closely to make sure that this money is spent the way it’s supposed to.”
He appointed Vice President Joe Biden to supervise the disbursement of the funds and to make sure states are using the money for its intended purposes. He also named Earl Devaney, a former Secret Service special agent and uncoverer of the Jack Abramoff scandal to keep a tight watch on the implementation of all stimulus funds.