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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Money on the Table

Before he gave the Republican rebuttal to Tuesday night’s presidential address, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was making headlines by saying he would leave some of President Obama’s stimulus funds on the table. Other southern GOP governors, such as Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Mark Sanford of South Carolina, said they may follow his lead.

Jindal announced last week, and reiterated Feb. 22 on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” that he would not be applying for some unemployment insurance funding available to his state through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, because it would require a change to state unemployment laws. Our colleagues at PolitiFact explain that Jindal’s statement is “mostly true,” because the state would qualify for funding only by expanding the pool of workers eligible for unemployment checks. But, they note, when he says that accepting the federal money would lead to increased taxes on businesses down the line, he’s crossing into speculation. An uptick in the economy could reduce unemployment (and hence unemployment insurance costs), or the state could choose to raise any additional funds needed in some other way.

Also, the local Times-Picayune reported that Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat, “disputed the governor’s interpretation and said that the new unemployment benefits are designed to be temporary.” But that’s wrong. In certifying states for the funding, according to section 2003 of the stimulus package, the secretary of labor must disregard any “state law provisions which are not then currently in effect as permanent law or which are subject to discontinuation.” In other words, the provisions expanding the pool of eligible unemployment recipients can’t have sunset or expiration dates. There’s nothing to stop a state from changing the law back to its pre-stimulus wording, of course, years down the road.