Refusing federal money with strings attached
How often do you see stories about local governments turning down millions of dollars in federal aid? Rarely to never. Except that’s exactly what a small Texas town (among others) did when Uncle Sam offered town leaders more than a million dollars in COVID-19 relief money. The reason? The strings attached to the cash. But also, they say rejected it “on principle”:
“Today it’s about the COVID-19 vaccine mandate. But the big problem is it’s an executive order that could be who knows what, because that comes with the stroke of a pen,” said Hemphill.
Sixty-seven other Texas towns followed suit. Among them was Mason, which has a population of 2,400 and turned down $570,000.
Sue Pledger, a Mason city commissioner, learned about the potential drawbacks of accepting stimulus money from Hemphill. “The federal government has no right to come in and audit us, has no right to our financial records,” she told Reason. “We haven’t entered a contract…We’re separate, and that’s the way we want to keep it here in Mason.”
“We had very strong support in a very short time that we had made the right choice, based on what representing the citizens in this community meant. It meant giving back the funds, staying sovereign, keeping our independence, not giving the federal government a foot in our finances, or over what we do with our contracts.”
Agree or disagree with the reasons, it’s no secret the federal government uses money to get state and local officials to do what it wants. If these towns — and others — are genuinely interested in limiting federal interference in their affairs, then great. There are a host of issues where they can continue to defend their principles by refusing to take Uncle Sam’s nickel — from the drug war to public education, civil asset forfeiture, transportation, health care, immigration, and more. It’s a fight that, once underway, never ends.