While 70 current and former governors hobnob and reminisce in Philadelphia July 11-14 during the National Governors Association's 100th anniversary celebration, the sitting governors also plan to strategize on how to influence the next president on policies ranging from energy to health care.
Former governor-turned-president, Bill Clinton, who will give the keynote address July 12, is a reminder of how the governor's mansion has been the training ground for four of the last five presidents. (Former governors Jimmy Carter and President George W. Bush had scheduling conflicts and will not attend the meeting).
The inevitable buzz about presidential politics and the not-so-sexy, but all-important state budgets is sure to dominate hallway conversations. But the governors are also expected to discuss privately whether to send a letter to the next occupant of the White House on energy policies, the focus of this year's initiative from NGA Chairman and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R).
Based on past experience, finding a consensus about what the letter should say won't be easy. During the NGA's winter meeting in Washington, D.C., in February, governors of both parties from energy-producing states derailed Pawlenty's efforts to win support of a plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
While governors broadly agree that the country needs to rely less on foreign oil and develop more renewable energy sources, the costs of regulating greenhouse gases are a major concern of states that produce oil and coal, which emit greenhouse gases when burned.
In a private lunch scheduled during this meeting, the governors also are expected to discuss how they want the next president and Congress to tackle two big-ticket items: Medicaid and Real ID. Congress delivered governors a huge victory in May when it delayed six Bush administration rules for Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor, that states argued would have cost them $13 billion if the rules had gone into effect.
But Medicaid is expected to continue to bust state budgets. The cost of the program, which accounts for about 22 percent of state spending, is expected to climb 8 percent annually through 2018.
States also are still chafing over the estimated $14 billion price tag of a federal plan for making driver's licenses more secure. While the U.S. Department of Homeland Security gave states — even those that didn't ask for it — more time to comply with the federal Real ID law, state legislatures are still thumbing their nose at the law. Just last month, Arizona became the 10th state to vote to prohibit the state's compliance with Real ID, which will force states to verify the identities of all 245 million drivers — and pay for the program.
Presidential politics, however, will pervade the meeting because so many governors are on shortlists of potential picks for vice president or the new Cabinet. The meeting brings together many of the rising stars of both parties who may land plum spots in the next president's administration — whichever party wins.
Read the full report Governors Celebrate Past, Look to '09 on Stateline.org's Web site.