Mike Pence Opposes Stimulus Projects Unless They Benefit Mike Pence

While serving in the House of Representatives, Mike Pence railed against the economic stimulus bill, repeatedly denouncing it as a failure and calling instead for a federal “spending freeze.”

But the Indiana Republican, now the state’s governor, is joining a long line of Republicans who voted against the stimulus but then took credit for stimulus dollars that went toward projects in their districts.

The Times of Northwest Indiana reports today that Pence, rumored to be considering a presidential run, is now taking credit for projects in his state that were funded by the stimulus bill that he opposed.

Consider the governor's visit to Hammond on Thursday: Pence cheered the start of the Indiana Gateway rail improvements that will help speed freight and passenger rail travel through Northwest Indiana.

"I say let's blow the horn, let's get the Gateway open and be on the way to a more prosperous Indiana," Pence proclaimed at the Hammond-Whiting Amtrak station.

The $71.4 million project will cut delays at region rail crossings by 70 hours a year, shave an hour off Amtrak trips between Chicago and Detroit, and create an estimated 700 jobs, according to Pence's Indiana Department of Transportation.

But the money for the project isn't coming from INDOT.

The Indiana Gateway is being paid for by the federal government through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, more commonly known as the stimulus.

As a congressman, Pence had a lot to say about the stimulus when it was being debated by the U.S. House. As chairman of the House Republican Conference, he led opposition to the stimulus in the chamber and condemned it repeatedly in national television appearances.

Pence defended his stance by explaining that the previous Republican governor, Mitch Daniels, was a stimulus hypocrite too:

"I do support the state of Indiana's efforts, over the last administration and this administration, to marshal those dollars and put them to work in ways that I think are going to help Northwest Indiana's economy grow and really maintain our posture as the Crossroads of America," Pence said.

Pence also noted he is not the first Hoosier governor to blast stimulus spending on one hand, and grab for stimulus cash with the other.

Former Gov. Mitch Daniels also condemned the stimulus. But the Republican had no qualms about taking some $1 billion in stimulus money that was intended to provide "extra" funds for Indiana schools, and instead using it to replace a regular state payment to school corporations.

That stimulus switcheroo enabled Indiana to maintain its budget reserve though the Great Recession and is the foundation of the $2 billion state bank account that Pence regularly touts as evidence of his sound fiscal management.

Even while railing against the stimulus bill as a congressman, Pence wrote a letter [PDF] requesting stimulus dollars for his district and hosted a job fair with stimulus-backed employers.

Filed Under