Stateline Story

In their own words: What govs would tell feds

  • February 28, 2007
  • By Pamela Prah

What do governors most want from Congress and the White House?

"Stay out of my business" was the tart advice from Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D). But other governors said they seek federal partnership in energy and health care - and more dollars to carry out laws imposed on them by Congress, such as the No Child Left Behind Act.

To assess their priorities, Stateline.org asked state chief executives attending the National Governors Association winter meeting that closed Feb. 27: What is the most important thing the federal government can do, or not do, that would help your state?

In their own words, here's a sampling of their responses:

 
Alabama Gov. Bob Riley (R)

Health care: "We have to get a handle on some of the increases in medical costs, our Medicaid budget. It continues to just spiral up every year. But one of the things you learn here [at the NGA meeting] is, we don't have a unique problem in Alabama. … We're all dealing with the same type of problem. They're nuanced, but essentially the same."

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Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R)

Energy: "The best thing … we could ask for is a recognition of how important supplying domestic energy supplies would be to the United States and allowing Alaska … to provide those source … Our state is so rich in oil and gas and mineral deposits, and we need to be able to tap into those reserves and get them to market."

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Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell (R)

Transportation:  "We have made huge investments in transportation under my watch and the last two-and-a-half years… Like everyone else, we want to know that the commitments (from Washington) that have been made will be followed up on."

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Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter (D )

Energy: "Taking the [federal] tax credits for building wind farms and making those five- or 10-year tax credits that are right now reauthorized every two years. … We have a real transmission capacity problem already in Colorado, just for Colorado consumers. If we want to be part of the wind market and export any of that and help California, for instance, with its clean energy mandates, we need transmission."

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Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R)

Property insurance and environment: "There are two things that they can affirmatively do: One is to establish a national catastrophic [property] insurance coverage plan. We just got the Southern Governors Association to unanimously pass a resolution to that effect. I'm very pleased about that. … In addition, we are very interested in working with our federal partners to continue to get more funding for the Everglades restoration."

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Iowa Gov. Chet Culver (D)

Agriculture and energy: "One of the big issues we are working on here in Washington is the reauthorization of the farm bill. ... That will be of critical importance to our farmers, to rural Iowa especially. We really want to make sure that there is a big focus on renewable energy and alternative fuel and conservation in that farm bill. It's something that has never been more important, the emphasis on alternative energy."

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Maine Gov. John Baldacci (D)

Federal-state relations and economic development: "The most important thing they can do is to partner with the states. Don't be rigid, don't always say 'no' when it comes to health, economic development or education, but just really work in partnership. … In terms of the economy and jobs, I think that if they could help us with innovation and research and development and opportunities in our state and our country and providing those opportunities here and not off-shoring them somewhere else, that would be probably the single biggest thing that they could do.

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Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D)

Unfunded mandates: "There's no one thing. of course, but one thing they can do is not saddle us with unfunded mandates, like Real ID."

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Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D)
Unfunded mandates: "Whether it's dollars for S-CHIP or Medicaid or security dollars or transportation or water infrastructure, you know, the most important thing Washington can do is to reverse this divestment trend of the last six years ...[of] constantly looking for every excuse … to get the federal government out of the responsibility of governing."

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Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R)
Health care: "I have to pick just one? There are many issues: National Guard, energy, health care, education. But if I have to pick just one that has the most financial impact it would have to be health care and human services area. There are a cluster of issues surrounding that: Medicaid reform, S-CHIP, a more modern federal-state relationship on health-care issues."

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Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R)

Hurricane Katrina recovery: "We're unique because of the hurricane. To help expedite the spending of the funds that Congress and the administration have very generously allocated to us for disaster assistance, to expedite the paperwork for construction, the permitting. The administration is working very hard to do that. We're doing things at a record pace. It's just not fast enough."

New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D)

Unfunded mandates: "We need the funds to go with the aspirations. I don't think there's enormous disagreement across partisan lines or regionally about what we want our states to be able to accomplish either in terms of health-care reform or education reform, which are the necessary shifts we need to put in place economically to permit ourselves to compete internationally. The question is whether the resources will be provided to help us do that at the state level. No Child Left Behind is one easy example of an instance where there are all sorts of mandates and there's no support."
  
Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons (R)
Federal-state relations: "Washington, D.C., has a significant impact on the state of Nevada, [with] nearly 90 percent of the state owned by the federal government. … What Washington can do is divest that control to the state of Nevada. We're all too happy to make sure that the future of our state is in our own hands. … Nevada … needs to have more control and more flexibility, whether it's education, public land, mineral resources, housing - all of that needs to be divested to the state of Nevada."

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North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley (D)
College education: "Right now it would be to help states improve college access so that we can improve the creativity and innovation of every state in this country. … The cost of college is higher than it needs to be. It just closes a lot of kids out. I think there is a federal role to play there."

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Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D )
Unfunded mandates: "Washington can provide the resources to pay for many of the mandates that have been pushed down to the state level. I'm talking about No Child Left Behind. I'm talking about the Real ID Act. I'm talking about keeping faith with Medicaid. There are lots of burdens that have been passed down to the states as a result of Washington's pulling back on commitments they have made or should have made."

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Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D)
Health care: "I think that the most important thing would be to support the efforts that Pennsylvania is undertaking to insure all of our people with health care; it's the single most important issue. … Even though it's a state effort, we'll need waivers, we'll need support from Washington in so many different ways."

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Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D)
Health and education: "There are some issues that are right on the cusp right now, re-authorization of S-CHIP, for example, which is very important to our state, to children in our state, I'd certainly put that in the short-term list. In the longer term, we're talking about education here. I just really believe that ultimately it's going to take some initiatives at the federal level to help break through things like teaching, getting more people interested in science and math."
  
Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D)
Federal-state relations: "I think the best thing the federal government can do is stay out of my business."

Stateline.org staff writers Eric Kelderman, and Pauline Vu contributed to this report.

Stateline.org photographs by Danny Dougherty