President Obama signed this week a $26 billion aid package to cash-strapped states.
Democrats say the move was necessary to save hundreds of thousands of jobs for teachers, firefighters, police officers, and civil employees.
Republicans labelled it a special-interest giveaway ahead of midterm elections, linking it to wasteful stimulus spending.
The $26 billion won't come close to filling the hole in state budgets. The governors association says the states have cut spending by about 11 percent since 2008. But the group says a large gap between spending and revenues remains to be closed: about $127 billion for the period from 2010 to 2012.
To supporters of the new legislation, that shows that Washington is simply offering some emergency help, not a free pass. To critics, the fact that states have already been making hard decisions suggests that the sky wouldn't fall if they had to do without the extra help.
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