I-Team: Federal stimulus program created Texas jobs, but at a cost


by Dave Fehling / 11 News


Posted on November 16, 2010 at 7:37 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 10 at 11:34 AM

HOUSTON --The federal stimulus money was supposed to help create jobs, and it has done that in Texas, but new figures suggest the jobs come with high prices. In one case, over $4 million in stimulus money resulted in the creation of just one state job.

“You see in some departments here in Texas, millions of dollars being spent and one job created," said Trent Seibert with Texas Watchdog, an independent journalism group that got a hold of the latest numbers.

"I'm sure the money's going to important things, but the problem is, is it a jobs stimulus? Clearly not," said Seibert.

Republican State Rep. Debbie Riddle, who serves on the Appropriations Committee, a key panel in determining the state government’s spending, agreed.

"Strikes me as kind of nuts," she said.

According to figures provided in the latest quarterly state report on the “American Recovery and Reinvestment Act," Texas has spent $5 billion in stimulus funds in the past several months, creating 38,160 jobs, but at a cost of $130,055 each.

One of the smallest bangs for the buck was at the Texas Department of Rural Affairs, where the report said 1.5 jobs were created for $4.45 million.

Other examples include:

Texas Attorney General, 6 jobs, $1.4 million each
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, 20 jobs,  $997,000 each
Texas A&M University, 21 jobs, $295,000 each
University of Texas Medical Branch Galveston, 50 jobs, $144,607 each
University of Texas Austin, 168 jobs,  $135,030 each
Texas Education Agency, 27,161 jobs, $91,000 each
University of Houston, 76 jobs, $86,013 each

One big question is whether any of these jobs are permanent. Stimulus funds run out next year.

"If it went for actually creating a job, then when the stimulus money is gone, it’s actually digging a hole," said Riddle. With Texas legislators returning to Austin next year facing a budget deficit running into the billions, Riddle says she expects there will be no state money to continue funding jobs created with federal stimulus money.

When asked if she thinks the Texas economy today would have been doing just as well had there not been the stimulus money, Riddle said: “Absolutely."

11 News tried contacting some Houston Democratic members of the Appropriations Committee and got no response. But there is disagreement over the overall effect of the stimulus funds.

One example, UT Health Science Center at Houston said the job estimates are misleading: it said the millions spent on new equipment for research end up creating many more jobs indirectly. But UT does agree that the people it has hired could be fired when the money runs out in another year. 

*** UPDATE***

The Texas Department of Rural Affairs in February said newly updated figures show the agency used $6.3 million in federal stimulus funds in the second half of 2010 to create 111 jobs.