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Jindal vs. Crist: Republican governors at war over Obama stimulus package -- a preview of 2012?

February 19, 2009 |  9:22 am

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal

Putting conservative ideology -- or their political ambitions -- ahead of their states' immediate financial needs, a handful of Republican governors are toying with the idea of turning down the money offered in President Obama's $787-billion stimulus package.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, in an interview with WWLTV in New Orleans, said the package may come with too many strings from the Feds. Under the plan, Louisiana, facing a $1.6-billion budget shortfall next year, would get $3.8 billion in funds for Medicaid, public education and bridge and road repair.

We'll have to review each program, each new dollar to make sure that we understand what are the conditions, what are the strings and see whether it's beneficial for Louisiana to use those dollars.

Jindal, tapped to give the GOP response to Obama's Address to Congress next week, is widely considered one of the contenders in the Republican Party's 2012 presidential sweepstakes.

Which sets up a nice contrast with Florida's Gov. Charlie Crist, who welcomed Obama to the Sunshine State last week as the president was out campaigning for the package and embraced the stimulus, saying, "This is not about partisan politics. It's about rising above that, helping the American people and reigniting our economy."

Crist, who was on John McCain's short list for vice president before the Arizona senator picked Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate, is also said to be eyeing a race for the White House.

Jindal is not the only Republican governor wary of taking the federal money. "My concern is there's going to be commitments attached to it that are a mile long," said Texas Gov. Rick Perry. "We need the freedom to pick and choose. And we need the freedom to say, 'No thanks.' "

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney must be sorry he's not still governor of Massachusetts, the better to rail against federal spending.

But Democrats inserted language in the stimulus plan that will make it difficult for any governor to actually say no. Under the bill, state Legislatures can override the governors.

So, what's a little political posturing between friends?

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-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Getty Images

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