Monday, October 31, 2011

Republicans Gaming The Stimulus And The System

Next time when you hear Republicans attack "Obama's failed stimulus" or any federal aid to states in general, remember that whenever federal money is given to the states, it's up to the states themselves to use the money as intended.  Not all of them do, particularly states under GOP control.  Take Kansas Republicans and the money they received for loans for home weatherization projects, for example.

The weatherization program, known as Efficiency Kansas, began with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the federal government’s stimulus package to get Americans back to work.

The state planned to use $32 million in federal energy efficiency funds to create the revolving loan fund. State officials promised to lend most of that to Kansans to repair their homes within three years.

The program was expected to create 1,150 jobs, such as weatherization auditors, and heating and cooling, roofing, insulation and window workers, according to the KCC.

But the KCC did not get the loan program moving quickly. In the first six months of Efficiency Kansas, only 13 people had taken out loans.

When concerns were raised last winter that all the money would not be lent by the March 2012 deadline, Brownback, a supporter of the biofuels industry, reallocated $20 million from the loan fund to grants and gave the money to two organizations in that industry.

Banks didn't want to make the program loans in the first place, and when Republicans came into power halfway through the program's lifespan, they stonewalled the program from ever really going anywhere, allowing Brownback to raid the fund to give to corporate biofuel producers instead.  Due diligence on the part of Democrats to make sure the program wasn't abused or defrauded turned into deliberate sandbagging by the Republicans who gleefully dismantled the program instead.

The same "set up to fail" scenario has already been put into motion by Gov. Brownback for the state's health insurance exchanges.  Brownback's not the only GOP governor to reject funding grants for setting up health insurance exchanges either, as Republicans are counting on enough states refusing to implement health care reform so that the entire Affordable Care Act collapses regardless of whether the law is repealed by the GOP or not.

As I've said before, this is why wresting state control away from Republicans is as important or more so than at the federal level.  It doesn't matter what federal reforms you want Democrats to pass in Washington if blood red states simply ignore the laws or refuse to implement them.

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