OLYMPIA – Washington state should not use federal stimulus money to fill its budget gap, a Republican congresswoman said this week. Instead, it should make tough choices to cut or restructure government programs.
Using stimulus money for ongoing programs is “kicking the ball down the road,” U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said. “The federal government is broke. … Don’t continue to borrow money we don’t have.”
McMorris Rodgers, in Olympia to meet with Republican legislators during the weeklong break in Congress, was returning to the place where she got her political start, first as a legislative aide and later as a state representative from northeastern Washington’s 7th District.
She was state House minority leader before winning her U.S. congressional seat in 2004.
In an interview Wednesday morning, McMorris Rodgers said it may be tempting to take federal stimulus money to cover part of an estimated $2.8 billion state general fund budget gap.
The state used stimulus money last year to help balance the budget without raising taxes.
Rather than taking federal money this year or raising taxes, the state should do things that have been studied for years but never implemented, like contracting its printing to private companies and getting out of the liquor business, she said in the interview.
“Everyone is having to make tough decisions,” she said. “It’s not easy to lay people off. It’s not easy to cut budgets.”
McMorris Rodgers voted against the stimulus package last year and remains critical of it.
But later Wednesday she issued a press release hailing a $35 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to help pay for the North Spokane Corridor, money that comes from the stimulus package she opposed.
Todd Weiner, a spokesman for McMorris Rodgers, said later there was no contradiction in opposing the stimulus and lobbying the department as she did for money for the corridor.
She would seek stimulus money, now that it’s available, for other local projects that create jobs and help the economy, he said.
Her problem with the stimulus package, he added, was it didn’t have enough projects like the corridor and too many programs that keep government programs going.
An upcoming summit on health care reform between Republicans and President Barack Obama is “a step in the right direction” if the administration will truly listen to GOP ideas, she said.
She wants more insurance choices for individuals and small business, coverage dictated by the marketplace not the government, and health savings accounts; but the most important thing that would prompt her to support legislation would be medical malpractice reform.