Aid money tests GOP governors eyeing 2012

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Another helping of federal aid to shore up battered state budgets might be tough to swallow for Republican governors who may challenge President Barack Obama in two years. They can take the money or make a stand.

The aid package enacted last week requires governors to sign off before their states can receive a share of the $16 billion in federal medical assistance money. The bill contained another $10 billion that school districts will get no matter what.

The situation is most taxing on GOP governors who are possible 2012 presidential candidates, such as Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, Minnesota’s Tim Pawlenty and Mississippi’s Haley Barbour. They have railed against Washington spending. Taking the money opens them up to charges of hypocrisy, but rejecting it deprives their states of tens of millions of dollars.

The choice is reminiscent of 2009, when some Republican governors — Alaska’s Sarah Palin, South Carolina’s Mark Sanford and Texas’ Rick Perry among them — made headlines for refusing portions of the $787 billion stimulus package.