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"Dear Director Orszag"

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, April 14 2009

To qualify for federal dollars under the stimulus package, each U.S. state and territory had 45 days from the date of passage to certify that they wanted the money and that they would use it for economic recovery projects. All that was really required was a simple declaration of intention from the governor to OMB. That's the route that Alabama Republican Bob Riley took:

This letter is to fulfill my obligation under Title XVI, Section 1607 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Tim Kaine of Virginia and Martin O'Malley of Maryland, both Democrats, submitted similarly dry letters. But perhaps mindful that with this Obama Administration, these certification letters would find their way online, some governors took more advantage of their time on the stage. Transparency, in this case, means getting their views on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act posted on an Obama Administration site for all the world to see. And, indeed, OMB has since uploaded PDF scans of all of the "Dear Director Orszag letters to Recovery.gov. (Thanks Shaun Dakin for the link.)

Democrat David Paterson of New York used the opportunity to commend President Obama:

I applaud your courage and leadership in placing our Nation on the road to recovery through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

South Carolina Republican Mark Sanford might be, after noise to the contrary, accepting federal stimulus money, but he's not happy about it:

Although we have questioned the effectiveness of this legislation, we have said all along that we will not prevent the state from certifying and receiving stimulus dollars which are scheduled to come to the state programmatically through existing federal formulas.

And Alaska's Sarah Palin made the conservative case against the stimulus:

I have invited public discussion through the legislative hearing process currently underway on ARRA funds that appear designed to grow government programs or that will impose federal mandates on our state. Federal stimulus funding must not add to strained state budgets nor diminish sovereignty by imposing mandates, now or in the future... The federal economic stimulus package will have profound, long term implications. Our citizens and future generations must have the hope of meaningful work and economic opportunity, rather than be burdened by higher taxes and increased national debt.