Daniels answers questions on stimulus, political future

National Governors Association Chairman, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, center, speaks during a news conference as Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter Jr., far left, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and NGA Vice Chairman, Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, look on.
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Cat Andersen/Eyewitness News

Washington, DC - Before his plane was grounded unexpectedly Sunday morning, Gov. Mitch Daniels had grabbed the spotlight as the media was eager to hear how he'll be handling Indiana's piece of the stimulus pie.

Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer asked Daniels if he would accept federal stimulus funds for Indiana.

"We will take it. We will try to spend it prudently and wisely and in our case we'll try to invest it for the future of our state. We don't have the holes to fill that other states do but that doesn't mean that we can't use it so that we're a stronger indiana when this is over," he said.

After catching a commercial flight to DC, Daniels joined the other governors for the National Governors Association meeting. Some GOP governors say they may reject money from the $787 billion stimulus package. However, for the most part, governors here downplayed an apparent split in Republican ranks over the stimulus plan, which will send billions to states for education, health care and transportation.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a likely 2012 presidential contender, has said he would reject a portion of the money aimed at expanding state unemployment insurance.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour has said he may do so as well, as has South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the party's 2008 vice presidential nominee, has also criticized the stimulus but traveled to Washington last month to press for Alaska's share of the money.

At issue for Jindal and Barbour is a provision in the stimulus bill that could allow people ineligible for unemployment benefits to receive them anyway. That could eventually force a tax increase on employers, both governors have said.

Observers point out that even if some governors reject the funds, state legislatures can pass a resolution to accept the money, bypassing the governors and making their objections symbolic.

The stimulus plan is aimed to send billions of dollars to states for education, health care and transportation. President Barack Obama signed it into law last week.

Right now 44 out of 50 states are dealing with a deficit, but Indiana's budget has a surplus. That's why politicians and pundits across the nation are looking to Daniels for answers. Daniels has a reputation for running a tight budget, and there has been speculation that he might run for president. But Daniels was quick to squelch that rumor.

"No, I've answered this over and over. I hired on for four years and it's the only job I've ever run for or really ever intend to," he said.

Daniels says he has big plans for Indiana and wants to fully dedicate the next four years to reaching those goals - and a presidential campaign would be a distraction.

Daniels is one of just two governors chosen to speak at the NGA meeting.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.