Governors told to expect no new federal money
By Angela Greiling Keane
WASHINGTON -- President Bush on Wednesday told 16 of the nation's new governors not to expect an increase in federal funds flowing to the states, Minnesota's Gov.-elect Tim Pawlenty said.
Rather, Bush told the Democratic and Republican governors to expect relief in the form of more flexibility and a pledge not to send states more unfunded federal mandates. With the exception of education and homeland security spending, Pawlenty said, he does not expect new federal money.
"I don't think the help is going to come in the form of new cash," Pawlenty, a Republican, said after his day at the White House. "I think the help is going to come in the form of reform."
Pawlenty and the other governors traveled to Washington at Bush's invitation. Bush is a former governor of Texas, and Pawlenty said he relates well to the needs of state executives.
Bush spent about an hour with the governors, meeting with them in the White House's Roosevelt Room. He told them he needs their help in spreading the word about the serious situations the country faces regarding homeland security, war in Iraq and the softened economy.
"President Bush made a pretty direct appeal of us to educate the public about the times we live in," Pawlenty said.
The purpose of the daylong meeting was for Bush to talk with the governors about the relationship between the federal and state governments, Scott Stanzel, a White House spokesman said.
"The president, as a former governor, understands the issues that they will confront," Stanzel said. "And he looks forward to meeting with them to talk about the critical role that governors play in crafting policy that affects people's lives."
Before Bush, most cabinet secretaries addressed the group, focusing specifically on what they could do to eliminate regulations considered onerous.
Pawlenty said he spoke with Education Secretary Rod Paige about the new education bill and its requirements. Pawlenty told Paige that one of his priorities when he becomes governor is to rescind Minnesota's Profiles of Learning, and he doubts he can do that while enacting the new federal education bill. Pawlenty said Paige offered to consider a waiver for the state.
Pawlenty and a handful of staffers and friends arrived in Washington on Tuesday afternoon and returned to Minnesota on Wednesday evening.
On Tuesday, Pawlenty made news by calling for Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott to resign from his leadership post. Pawlenty said he began his Wednesday meetings at 7 a.m. and didn't have time to see news coverage of his remarks. He said he assumes his fellow governors were also unaware of the call.
"I didn't bring it up," he said with a laugh.