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But Pro Publica says the importance of these certification letters has been overstated:
Today's deadline was set up to get governors on the record accepting stimulus money. They have to sign a generic letter and send it to Washington before they're allowed to apply for any specific funds, federal officials say. The letter doesn't mean they have to apply for, or spend, any money at all.
News reports have further blurred the significance of today's deadline by implying that the governors' certifications come with "caveats," when, in fact, their certifying letters simply answer a yes-or-no question: The state governments are willing to apply for some funds.
"They don't have to say this and not that [in their certification letters]," explained Tom Gavin, a spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget. "They just have to say they will accept some of the money. Otherwise they can't accept any of the funding," he told us.
You're probably as capable as I am of parsing the language of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to discern for yourself whether these certification letters were significant. But, it's worth noting: Some Republican governors, including Mark Sanford and Sarah Palin, are still trying to effectively redirect stimulus money to paying down debt.
That approach, the Obama administration believes, is contrary to the purpose of the stimulus. And, they have a point. If a state is using stimulus funds to reduce its unfunded liability for public employee pensions, for example, what it is effectively doing is spreading the stimulus over 30 years. That may be prudent fiscal policy, but it's something very different from injecting money into the economy right now in the hopes of boosting the economy right now.
In other words, some Republican governors still are fighting the stimulus. They've simply found a different way to do it.
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