The Mitch Daniels Stimulus Flip-Flop Debacle
As we all know by now, Governor Mitch Daniels went on Fox News this past Sunday continuing his “tough talk” on budgetary matters and in particular, continued his rhetoric and opposition to receiving more stimulus money for Indiana, denouncing the new $26 Billion dollar stimulus bill.
The problem is that Daniels signed onto a letter from the National Governors’ Association, asking leaders of Congress to approve an extension of the initial stimulus program’s federal match for Medicaid for two quarters in 2011.
So, one day Mitch wants stimulus funds. The next he doesn’t. Sure sounds like a flip-flop to me.
Bill Ruthhart at The Indianapolis Star has been detailing the double-speak and hypocrisy of Governor Daniels:
The [Governor’s] contrast in those two positions has ignited a political firestorm from Democrats, who argue Daniels is more interested in his national appearance and potential bid for president than taking care of Hoosiers.
The letter also made no demand that any extra stimulus money should not add to the deficit. It did ask for changes to “maintenance of effort” restrictions that come with the Medicaid funding but not demand those as a condition of receiving the federal money.
Daniels was on an Indianapolis radio show on Tuesday in an attempt to defend his ever-changing, waffling position on stimulus funds. Soon after appearing on the show when asked why Daniels said the letter contained specific requests when it didn’t, Daniels became angry, insisting he always has opposed more stimulus funding. History of course proves otherwise. Still, The Star captures Daniels’ response:
“I have made the same point over and over, that borrowing money from the Chinese and spending it on government is not effective,” he said, forcefully thrusting his finger in the air. “I’ve made that point for a year and a half.”
But when pressed about the letter again, Daniels hedged.
“My clear recollection is saying I’d only sign a letter that says don’t add to the debt, and I thought that letter made it plain.”
However, the letter didn’t, and several hours later the governor’s press secretary, Jane Jankowski, released a statement saying Daniels and other governors had requested the NGA letter include language that addressed the federal deficit, but the organization could not come to an agreement on that point.
When asked if Daniels signed the letter anyway, knowing it requested only the Medicaid stimulus funding, Jankowski responded: “The governor was a team player and signed the letter.”
Still, the Daniels administration insisted that regardless of the letter, the governor has consistently opposed any additional stimulus funding.
However, for a second day, they did not offer an explanation for why Daniels would sign a letter in support of funding he opposes.
“I think he’s now just completely trying to mislead, and whenever you try to do that, you make a bad situation worse,” Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker said of Daniels’ mischaracterization of the NGA letter. “He needs to admit that he’s flip-flopped or he needs to admit he doesn’t want the money. He needs to come clean, but the fact of the matter is, Indiana’s state budget needs this money.”
Daniels rejected that notion, saying that unlike 31 other “reckless” states, Indiana did not plan for the additional stimulus money in its budget. He also re-emphasized that Indiana, unlike most states, has $830 million in savings and can get by without the stimulus funding.
Parker countered that the state has savings only thanks to the $1.2 billion in stimulus money that shored up Indiana’s Medicaid and education spending. When the legislature has to craft a budget next year, Parker said the savings and stimulus money will be gone.
It was the appearance on “Fox News Sunday” that helped ignite Daniels’ flip-flop debacle.
On the show, in which Daniels was deemed to be a “prime contender” for president, Daniels slammed the $26 billion stimulus bill, which would provide states with funding for Medicaid and to retain teachers.
More on the Daniels rant from The Star:
Daniels continued Tuesday to attack the plan, which will send Indiana $227 million in extra Medicaid funding and $207 million to support 3,600 teaching jobs. The governor insisted the proposal only serves to bail out states that have not been as fiscally responsible as Indiana and only will add to the exploding national deficit.
“The thing they’ve done here is not paid for,” Daniels said. “They pretend, but with one quick look — as often is the case with Congress — the spending is real, but the so-called savings or offsets are fictional.”
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan disputed Daniels’ charge, insisting the bill is paid for by “lots and lots of cuts, from a lot of different places,” including food stamps.
“This bill is fully offset. It does not add a dime to the nation’s deficit,” Duncan said.
Eric Bradner of the Evansville Courier & Press captured similar sentiment of the Daniels "flip-flop:"
“It’s the ultimate in hypocrisy. You’re either for it or against it, and he wants to have it both ways because he wants to be acceptable to the national Republican Party,” said Dan Parker, chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party.
Democrats believe it is disingenuous for Daniels to tout Indiana’s strong fiscal position relative to states such as Michigan on one hand while bashing President Barack Obama’s administration’s federal stimulus package on the other.
That’s because Indiana has received almost $1.2 billion so far in stimulus money, not including the additional $434 million total that is coming through the bill the House passed Tuesday.
“He’s balancing the budget with stimulus money, and then blaming folks giving him the money for doing the stimulus, and then taking credit for balancing the budget and saving the economy in Indiana,” said state Rep. Russ Stilwell, D-Boonville. “He can’t have it both ways. We’d be laying off thousands of teachers if it weren’t for the stimulus.”