After a dinner at the White House on Sunday, most of the nation’s Governors are back at the White House again on this Monday for a meeting with President Obama.
The usual type of issues that surface at these meetings could well do so again today, as Governors in both parties are unhappy over the Obama Administration’s health care plans, which are forcing states to expand their Medicaid health programs at a time when state budgets are already very stressed.
“Clearly, Medicaid is a major problem,” said Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, who has led the charge by Republicans on a number of fronts to call for changes in how the feds administer that program, as he urged the White House to block grant Medicaid money to the states without excessive regulations on how it must be used.
“It’s 30% of our budget, and everybody – including me – is trying to figure out how you control the growth and the cost,” said Scott.
One Republican Governor who did not come to Washington for the meeting was Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who remains locked in a bitter battle with union interests in Wisconsin over plans to restrict collective bargaining rights for state government workers.
Walker’s absence didn’t stop union protestors from standing outside the hotel where the Governors are meeting, as they demanded an end to bills in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states that they charge would harm union interests.
“You all are the backbone of America,” said Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont to loud cheers from those union demonstrators arrayed outside on an unusually warm day in late February in Washington, D.C.
“I think what America wants is reasonableness,” said Shumlin, taking a veiled swipe at GOP Governors that Democrats are trying to label as extreme.
One very interesting part of this year’s gathering of Governors is the huge number of newly-elected Governors – over half – which is a reminder of the voter upheaval that just took place a few months ago, as Republicans claimed the mantle of fiscal responsibility.
“We have to be very, very careful about how you make the tough cuts that all of you are facing,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who pledged to give states some high profile recommendations in coming weeks on how best to cut spending on education at the state level.
“Frankly there are smart ways to make these decisions and there are dumb ways,” Duncan told Governors over the weekend.
President Obama alluded to some of those tough decisions last night at his dinner as well.
“I know that the last couple of years have not been easy in a lot of your states,” as he urged both parties to find middle ground on tough issues, telling Governors they “have to respond in ways that go beyond just ideology or rhetoric.”
Sometimes this meeting of Governors and the President makes news. Other times, it’s a complete waste. We’ll see what happens later today.