Lawmakers Deliberate How to Use Stimulus Money

Tuesday, February 24th 2009, 8:48 pm
By: News 9

By Jennifer Pierce, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Millions in economic stimulus money is coming to Oklahoma as early as Wednesday, but Governor Brad Henry and his advisors worry the money could cause problems in the future.

Governor Henry is still at the Governor's Summit in Washington D.C., and even after hearing from President Obama Monday, he's still unsure if the more than $2 billion coming to Oklahoma is beneficial.

State Treasurer Scott Meacham said is happy the state is getting a financial boost.

"Quite frankly, any money we can get in Oklahoma I look at is we are money ahead," Meacham said.

The money will go for transportation, healthcare, education and unemployment, which could cause problems down the road.

"If you increase the benefits during this period, maybe there will be pressure to keep them higher," Meacham said. "Then, when you're not getting the money from the federal government to pay for them that you would have to raise your unemployment taxes."

Governors across the country have voiced they will turn down some of the stimulus money for the same reason.

Governor Henry said he will do the same if it doesn't benefit Oklahoma's economy.

Meacham advises to take the one-time money, but spend it wisely.

"If you took the money and say, expand your Medicaid program or used it to pay teachers more, well, that would create a hole down the road because we're not going to keep getting that money. We would have to make up in state funds," Meacham said.

Stimulus money will be available for Medicaid programs Wednesday and Governor Henry still has to review the terms and conditions until officially accepting that money, which should happen in the next couple days.

Statement released from Governor's office:

"Oklahoma has not officially accepted or spent any stimulus funding yet, but it does plan to very soon for road and bridge repair."