February 20, 2009


Governor Haley Barbour spoke with Fox News’ Jane Skinner today. He shared his thoughts on the stimulus bill signed by President Obama earlier this week. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation:

Jane: Governor Barbour of Mississippi joins us now.

Gov. Barbour: Governors like me are concerned that some of this money has strings attached requiring a change to state policy. It would require tax increases. What (a stimulus package) has got to do is protect the best interests of the people of Mississippi. This is a bill that is hundreds and hundreds of pages long, and after the bill, you have agencies that have to develop guidelines, rules, and regulations. But I will give you one example of something I’m against Mississippi taking. There is about $7 billion of unemployment insurance modernization in the act that would require Mississippi to pay unemployment compensation to people who are not willing and able to take a full-time job. We have never paid unemployment compensation to people unless they are willing and able to take a full-time job. That is always the lot in most states. If we were to change that to get our share of federal money, when the money runs out, it ensures we will have a tax increase on employers. The unemployment insurance tax in my state is a state tax on employment.

We do not want less employment. If you want more of something in your state, you do not tax it. That is why we do not want to increase the tax on employment and we are not going to take this money if we are required to let people who are not willing to take a full-time job receive unemployment compensation.

We do not know what other regulations are coming down. I suspect that the vast majority of this money will not have strings attached that are objectionable or that significant, but we do want to watch out for things like this that would lead to bad public policy and future tax increases for our constituents.

Jane: It is said that you will take education money. Is that true, and is it to create new jobs?

Gov. Barbour: We will have a lot of education money, and we will take it and restore cuts. Honestly, I’m not sure we can spend all the money being pushed in our direction. For instance, we are going to receive or will be eligible to receive $126 million additional for special education. Last year, we had to turn back $22 million for special education because we could not hire enough qualified special education teachers to spend that money.

And I think our state probably is in a little bit better shape financially than some others. The stimulus package will help us. We need it. I would not have voted for this stimulus package, but there is no question that it was appropriate and it seems that in cases like this, we will use the money for education. But I’m not sure we will be able to spend it all within guidelines.

Jane: Does it go back to us as Taxpayers? Where does it end up?

Gov. Barbour: It is not an issue of policy, just of the practicality that special education teachers are hard to find, if we do not have enough of them. Somebody that is a special-education teacher is a special person, because they have got to have the grit and determination and tenacity as well as compassion and caring. We just cannot find enough of them.