The Clarion-Ledger Editorial, 2/25/9

The jury is still out in the court of public opinion over Gov. Haley Barbour is right or wrong to join with a handful of other Republican governors in saying he will refuse a portion of the $787 billion federal stimulus package that would expand the state’s unemployment insurance coverage.

The battle lines, however, are pretty clear at the State Capitol.

“There is some (stimulus money) we will not take in Mississippi,” Barbour told CNN’s John King on Sunday. “If we were to take the unemployment insurance reform package that they have, it would cause us to raise taxes on employment when the money runs out, and the money will run out in a couple of years.”

Barbour joins a handful of Republican governors like Sarah Palin of Alaska and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana in rejecting federal money to expand unemployment insurance coverage.

House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, sharply disagreed with Barbour’s take on the stimulus funds on Monday, telling reporters that Barbour’s stance “bothers us greatly. Our neighbors, our friends and even family members have lost their jobs in this economic downturn through no fault of their own.”

McCoy referenced the possibility of an effort by the Legislature to bypass Barbour should he formally reject stimulus funds.