Gov. Rick Perry loves to play politics with federal funds, even at the expense of his taxpaying constituents. The most infamous example, so far, was his rejection of about a half billion dollars in federal unemployment funds last year, even as the state’s jobless rate was rising and the state’s jobless compensation fund was running low.
At that time, Perry apparently felt it was worth some sort of political benefit to bash the Obama administration rather than accept the help. He, of course, didn’t need an unemployment check. He had a nice job, and a taxpayerpaid, $10,000 per month rental mansion to go with it.
For a while, over the past few weeks, he also sounded as if he were going to turn down $830 million in emergency federal funds allotted to Texas for teacher jobs. Late last week, however, acting through Education Commissioner Robert Scott, Texas applied for the education money.
The difference? Perry still has that nice job and that nice house, but this year that job is on the line.
With school districts throughout the state grappling with budgetary problems and school board members, superintendents and teachers demanding he take the money, the governor wasn’t going to turn down $830 million only two months before Election Day, his faceoff with Democratic challenger Bill White.
But he still isn’t above playing politics with educators’ jobs. He still refuses to assure the federal government, as the federal law requires, that the state will sustain its own funding commitment to the public schools over the next three years.
Perry says only the Legislature can do that and is trying to win Washington’s assurance that the $830 million can be held for Texas’ use in the 201213 budget, not the current year, as Congress intended.
Spending the money next year certainly is better than losing it. But if Perry is still governor when the next state budget is drafted in 2011, will he comply with the federal law and spend the money on education jobs? Or, will he try to divert it to fill other budgetary gaps? That’s what the fuss has been all about, and if Perry can find a loophole, he will – if, of course, he is safely reelected.