Via the RRL, Commissioners reject federal stimulus funds.
The Williamson County Commissioners Court voted 5-0 Tuesday to issue $35 million in debt, to finish road improvement and expansion projects already underway for U.S. Highway 183, U.S. Highway 79 and Williams Drive in Georgetown.
But – despite arguments to the contrary from County Judge Dan Gattis and County Auditor David Flores – commissioners will pay for that work without federal stimulus dollars known as Build America Bonds.
“For us to not take advantage of BABS is for us to pay a higher cost for the borrowing of dollars,” Flores told commissioners.
Flores said if Williamson County entered the BABS federal stimulus program, it could expect to be reimbursed 35 percent of the interest payment for the $35 million in debt principal it is incurring.
That reimbursement, Flores said, would work out to about $150,000 per year for the next 20 years.
Most of the commissioners objections were straight from the warmed over tea party rhetoric – in other words partisan politics over good public policy.
“This is part of the stimulus plan and this is basically Williamson County condoning the growth of federal government,” Pct. 2 Commissioner Cynthia Long of Cedar Park said. “From my perspective, its sends the message that we support the stimulus program and we support the expansion of federal government.”
Pct. 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman of Brushy Creek agreed, stating: “Every project we’ve done with the federal government, they end up wanting to micromanage and tell us what to do.”
Pct. 3 Commissioner Valerie Covey of Georgetown acknowledged that when Williamson County accepts funding from the Texas Department of Transportation, those funds include federal dollars passed down to the state level.
But, Covey said, she had also has concerns about administrative costs that might be associated with federal stimulus funding, as well as possible restrictions on how the money can be spent.
Although Gattis, makes sense in the article, he still voted with the rest of the court.
Gattis said that while he favors issuing the debt – in order to finish the ongoing road projects – he thinks the county is being shortsighted in rejecting federal stimulus money.
“We’re making a big mistake here, leaving $100,000 per year on the table,” Gattis said. “It’s going to be interesting, as we’re getting into the budget and you’re not wanting to spend $100,000. We could fund a lot of programs with that.”
Gattis realizes that the county is giving away between $2-3 million over the next 20 years, but he still voted with the rest of them. I guess it’s not polite to dissent when the court is denying federal funds. There were no comments regarding where precinct 4 Commissioner Rom Morrison this issue.
While it’s true the federal government may have some input into these roads if federal funds are taken, most times it’s regarding environmental concerns, that’s not worth giving this money away. This looks like it was done more for partisan political reasons, then for reasons of good public policy or what’ best for Williamson County.