Texas GOP lawmakers united against - this - stimulus bill

McClatchy NewspapersFebruary 13, 2009 

WASHINGTON — Texas GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate stood united against the $789 billion economic stimulus package that passed Congress Friday — which included $16.1 billion for Texas and an estimated 269,000 jobs — but, they were anxious to say, they were not against a stimulus bill that included more tax credits and help for the housing and credit markets.

The four Republican House members who represent portions of Tarrant County – Michael Burgess of Lewisville, Kenny Marchant of Coppell, Joe Barton of Arlington and Kay Granger of Fort Worth – and the state's two GOP senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, voted against the bill.

"We don't dispute that we're in a crisis – we just disagree on what to do about it," said Cornyn. "The tragedy of this trillion-dollar bill is that it ignores a hard lesson learned: we cannot spend our way to prosperity. During the Bush Administration, we strengthened our homeland defenses, delivered a prescription drug benefit for seniors, and increased federal support for education – yet the additional spending did not protect our economy from recession."

Hutchison said "This is not the bill we should be passing right now." Besides critcizing the bill's lopsided Democratic support – only three Senate Republicans supported it and no House Republicans voted for it – the Texas senator said the package needed tax breaks "that spur spending."

"I was perfectly willing to vote for a huge package," said Marchant, who wanted to see generous tax credits for car and home buyers in the bill. "I'm disappointed. I think it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The ‘aha’ moment is not happening in this bill."

The conference report that passed pared back some of the Senate tax breaks Marchant liked. While the final bill allows car buyers to deduct the state and local sales tax – something Texans and states without income taxes can already do – and gives first time homebuyers a tax credit of up to $8,000, it is far less than the Senate-passed bill’s $15,000 tax credit for all house purchases.

Burgess, unhappy that the 1,000+ page bill was not available online until after midnight Friday, summed up his feelings about the process: "I think it stinks."

As for the substance of the bill, Burgess said that, for example, the $19 billion for improving information technology for Medicare and Medicaid was a good concept but "that doesn't create jobs."

Burgess said that his office had received over 1,300 letters and e-mails, overwhelmingly against the bill. "My calls are uniformly angry," he said, with many angry that the bill increases the budget deficit.

"The bill passed by the House today contains too much spending and will not achieve the desired result – creating jobs," said Barton. "The Democrats took out much of the long-term infrastructure spending that may have had the most impact. This is basically a social spending program. It grows the government and the deficit exponentially." The 24-year House veteran didn't mince words, either: "The stimulus bill is the most anti-competitive, anti-consumer, anti-free market piece of legislation I’ve ever seen on the House floor."

Granger said, "I am disappointed in the final version of this spending package. There was so much discussion at the beginning that we would focus solely on items that would provide an immediate jolt to our economy. Instead, we have a bill that fails to fund a significant amount of 'shovel ready' infrastructure projects and provide additional relief to small businesses."

The former Fort Worth mayor was shocked to learn that a relatively small share of the total $792 billion package is devoted to transportation infrastructure — $47 billion, or 5.9 percent, and only $27.5 billion, or 3.4 percent, for highway construction.

"You can imagine my disbelief when I learned that less than 10 percent would be dedicated to a sector that offers a true stimulus to the economy and could create hundreds, if not thousands, of new jobs in North Texas," said Granger.

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