Stimulus Money to Pay for Governor's Mansion Repairs

While Texas Gov. Rick Perry is criticizing Washington bailouts, state lawmakers are planning to use $11 million in federal stimulus money to help rebuild the badly burned Texas Governor's Mansion.

Top budget negotiators said Thursday that a House-Senate committee agreed on the expenditures late Wednesday night. Some $11 million in federal rescue dollars would be spent to refurbish the mansion, which was badly burned in an arson fire last summer.

Around $10 million in state tax money will also be spent on a renovation expected to cost about $20 million, officials said. Perry's office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

"If we're going to fix it up, we're going to have to use stimulus money," said Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan. "We've made a decision to use the stimulus money. This is a good use of it."

Ogden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, both said the $11 million was coming out of a $700 million rescue package for Texas -- part of the massive federal stimulus pie approved earlier this year by the U.S. Congress.

The financing for the repairs was decided in a late Wednesday meeting of the budget conference committee, which Ogden and Pitts lead, both men said. The final budget still faces a vote in the House and Senate, then approval from Perry, before it can become law.

Asked if Perry approved of using federal money for the mansion, Pitts said, "He just wanted it done."

Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle released a short, written statement late Thursday.

"We are continuing to work with lawmakers on the budget," she said.

Perry, expecting a 2010 primary challenge from U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, has railed against federal bailouts and the free-spending, power-hungry ways of Washington. In January, he said Texas was endangered by Uncle Sam's "audacity."

"I can't imagine what Texas would be like if we had applied the federal government's free-spending principles over the years," he said.

The governor's mansion was being renovated when an unknown arsonist torched it in July. Perry has been living in a three-story, limestone home with a heated pool, an outdoor cabana and a guest house.

The state is paying some $9,900-a-month in rent while the Governor's Mansion undergoes renovations, records show.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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