Love it or hate it, Washington’s $787 billion plan (and I use that word loosely) to save the economy is here to stay.

Today, the President signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law, ratcheting up the 2009 federal deficit to a total of $1.6 trillion and guaranteeing the largest expansion of government in a generation.

With gobs of money gushing from Capitol Hill, one might ask just how much can Texas state government expect? About $15.8 billion, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

But here’s the rub: If Texas decides to accept every bit of money that Washington is offering, the state stands to lose a good deal of its autonomy.

Federal funds almost always come with strings attached. One of those strings is often the requirement that the state match a portion of the federal funds its receiving meaning Texas government would have to spend more to get more.

More importantly, when the federal stimulus funds run dry, Texas government will have to replace those lost dollars with money from its own coffers – meaning either higher taxes in the future or a cut in existing government programs.

The responsible thing for Texas to do – since Gov. Rick Perry has officially put an outright boycott of any federal funds out of the question – is for the state to only accept federal money to pay for one-time expenditures. At least in that way, Washington’s “free money” won’t end up costing Texas too much in the long-run.

– James Quintero