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Gibbons blasts congressional critics

Gov. Jim Gibbons has angrily lashed out at Democrats in Nevada’s congressional delegation who questioned his reluctance to allow the state to qualify for increased unemployment assistance from the federal stimulus legislation.

Reps. Shelley Berkley and Dina Titus have said Gibbons should allow the state to accept the money. “What is truly foolish is Berkley’s cavalier attitude that Nevada should bow down to the federal government and give up its own state sovereignty in a mad grab to claim every last penny of stimulus dollars,” Gibbons said in a news release this afternoon. He added, “Congresswomen Berkley and Titus need stop being led around by lobbyists and put the interests of Nevada citizens first.”

At issue are funds in the stimulus package that increase benefits for the unemployed through 2011. Once the federal money stops flowing, the state would either have to provide benefits itself at the higher level or cut benefits back to their pre-stimulus level.

Nevada’s 9.1 percent unemployment rate is the fifth highest in the nation. The state already accepts plenty of federal matching dollars for various programs that require the state to pony up to get federal money. But Gibbons says accepting the unemployment funding would constitute a disastrous surrender of Nevada’s very sovereignty, and he criticizes the Democrats for not getting the state more money without conditions on it.

“As it is, these two are now griping about an unemployment program that doesn’t have federal strings attached, it has federal chains attached, I will not sell out our State’s sovereignty,” the governor says in the release.

In addition to that run-on sentence, the press release suffers from a couple of glitches. It states, "In an interview, Berkley said it would be ‘foolish’ for Governor Gibbons to accept certain portions of the federal Stimulus Package that will eventually raise taxes on Nevada businesses." In fact, she said it would be foolish to forfeit those portions of the package.

Gibbons also claims Nevada ranked "51st in Stimulus Package per capita education funding (behind Puerto Rico)." In fact, the state is 51st behind the other states and Washington, D.C. U.S. territories weren’t included on the list.

In a statement, a spokesman for Titus, who narrowly lost the governor’s race to Gibbons in 2006, said the governor is looking a gift horse in the mouth.

“The governor’s ill-advised proposal to leave money on the table for unemployed Nevadans rather than consider temporary changes to unemployment coverage shows just how out of touch he really is,” Andrew Stoddard said.

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