Thursday, March 19, 2009

Why the TWC will eventually end up with the $555 Million for Unemployment

Call it a change in political strategy or crisis management, but a lot has changed in past few days since Gov. Perry has publicly rejected the $555 Million in federal stimulus money intended to shore up Texas's unemployment funding.

This weekend a number of Texas newspapers decried Perry's rejection in editorials. An editorial in Sunday's Houston Chronicle was the first to outline a possible means of accepting the federal unemployment stimulus funding:

The governor doesn’t have to accept this on our say-so. It’s according to Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio. In a visit with the Chronicle editorial board on Friday, Straus said it may be possible to do a “hard sunset” on the program.

Translated from the Austinese, that means that the program could be ended when the federal stimulus dollars run out. There would be no permanent costs to the state’s business owners; no permanent changes to the state system dictated by Washington, as Perry evidently fears. Meanwhile, think of the good this would do tiding deserving folks over till the good times return. Straus said language in the stimulus bill may even offer guidance.

Then on Tuesday, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram offered a little more insight into a possible plan to accept the stimulus money:

But under a proposal by commission Chairman Tom Pauken, Texas would make the mandated changes to accept the money and then revert to current law after the federal dollars run out. Pauken floated the idea at his nomination hearing in February and has since met with lawmakers in both parties to further discuss the plan.

Pauken’s efforts were made independently of Perry’s office and reflect an apparent difference of opinion between the two men.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is advancing a similar plan in legislation gaining ground in the Senate. Pauken has also been praised by lawmakers who want to overturn Perry’s rejection of the money.

Tom Pauken's efforts to go around the Governor and work with the Legislature shows what a political hot potato this has become; especially over the weekend.

A number of news outlets reported on an interesting public meeting held on Saturday in Arlington hosted by Select Committee on Federal Economic Stabilization Funding

Governor Perry's rejection of stimulus money for the unemployed lead to an overflow crowd of 500 at UT- Arlington on Saturday. KERA's Shelley Kofler reports it was part of the legislature's process for deciding how stimulus money is spent.

As citizens jammed the university conference hall workers removed room partitions to double the seating. Still a hundred more stood in the hallway unable to squeeze in.

  • A new Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas prediction of the state economy said globalization and international economic turmoil “are largely overwhelming the ability to dampen the downturn through local efforts.”
  • Exports are down. The energy industry is contracting. Commercial building is facing a drop-off.
  • Unemployment is growing rapidly, with a loss of 296,000 Texas jobs predicted for this year.
  • Texas lost 75,800 jobs in January alone, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.
  • There are now an estimated 797,000 unemployed Texans, with 196,000 collecting unemployment.
Nearly one million unemployed Texans... hey Rick, can you spare a dime?

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