Obama, governors share plans for boosting public-works jobs
The National Governors Association, meeting Tuesday, says $136 billion in road, bridge, and transit projects are ready to go, but just need funding.
President-elect Obama signaled his determination Tuesday to create a new federal and state partnership to rebuild America "from the bottom up." His undertaking comes as the economic crisis depletes state treasuries and demand for state services increases.Skip to next paragraph
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At a meeting of the National Governors Association (NGA) in Philadelphia, Mr. Obama said any "true solution" to the economic woes would not come from Washington alone but from cooperation with governors across the United States.
"I'm not simply going to ask our nation's governors to help implement our economic recovery plan. I will ask you to help design that plan," he told a gathering of 48 governors and governors-elect at Congress Hall in downtown Philadelphia. "Because if we're listening to our governors, we'll not only be doing what's right for our states, we'll be doing what's right for our country."
The meeting with the governors was "unprecedented," said Gov. Edward Rendell (D) of Pennsylvania, in that it was the first time a transition team for an incoming administration reached out to state governors to ask their help in crafting a national agenda. Forty-three of 50 states are facing serious deficits.
Obama vowed in his opening remarks to take "action quickly" on passing an economic recovery plan that will create 2.5 million jobs, "put tax cuts into the pockets of hard-pressed middle-class families," and make a "down payment" on infrastructure investments such as for highways that are needed to create economic strength in the future.
The Obama transition team is working with congressional leaders to craft a $500 billion stimulus package for the economy. The governors have signaled they'd like an estimated $176 billion of that to go to infrastructure improvements and state Medicaid programs. During the meeting, however, they did not talk about specific dollar amounts, said Rendell, who is president of the governors' association.
"We didn't come here begging for help," he said. "We came here to enter into a discussion of what's the best way for us as states, working with the federal government in a partnership, to help this country turn around this economic dilemma."
He added, "There are certain things that we have more experience with – [like] infrastructure – that nobody else does."
Some $136 billion worth of infrastructure projects, the NGA estimates, have already won regulatory approval and just need funding to "put the shovels in the ground." California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) noted that his state already pledged $42 billion of state money in 2006 to rebuild roads, bridges, and highways, as well as to build a high-speed rail system.