Governor Perry Rejects $555 Million for State Unemployment Benefits

By Wyatt Goolsby
NewsWest 9

Texas Governor Rick Perry said "no thanks" to more than 500 million federal stimulus dollars that would have expanded unemployment benefits.  Perry said in the long run, it's just not worth it for Texas businesses. 

At first glance, it doesn't make a lot of sense. Why would the governor reject 555 million dollars in stimulus money? However, if you read between the lines, it's not exactly free. If Texas officials take it, that means permanently expanding state unemployment benefits. On Thursday, Perry made it clear, he doesn't think its a good idea.

"Employers who have to pay more taxes, have less money to meet their payroll," Governor Rick Perry said.

Perry plans to accept most of the 17 billion dollars in stimulus money, but part of that would mean companies would have to increase their unemployment benefits, like for part-time workers. Just not worth it according to Perry.

"We as a chamber strongly recommended to the Governor that he not accept these funds," Mike George, the President of the Odessa Chamber of Commerce, explained.

George said it's a good move. He said the costs for local businesses in the long run would be too much of a burden.

"The estimated cost, annual cost, of that new program, would be approximately a hundred and fifty million dollars every year," George added.

However, not everyone agrees rejecting the money is a good idea.

"Our economy won't pick up until people have money to spend," Reverend Billy Ashley, a member of the Midland Democratic Party, said.

Ashley told NewsWest 9 says with recent layoffs in oil and energy jobs, more unemployment benefits would be good.

"There will be people who will be hurting, who will need those benefits for their morgages, for their food for their families, and so forth," Ashley explained. "They won't be able to get that because the job market is getting really tight."

Ashley said he disagrees with the Governor's picking and choosing what parts of the stimulus money the state will accept.

"They are not looking at the whole picture, where people's lives are being impacted by them refusing to take a package that would help their people," Ashley said.

Lawmakers in Austin still could vote to accept the stimulus money and expand benefits. Other Governors in several states have also said they will reject part of the stimulus package.