When state governors meet with President-elect Obama Monday night and Tuesday morning, their message will be simple: send money quickly.Mr. Obama is slated to huddle in Philadelphia with Democratic governors on Monday evening and with governors from both parties Tuesday morning at a meeting of the National Governors Association (NGA).
The governors are focused on pressuring Obama to support the largest possible federal aid package to help states get through the current economic crisis. State budgets are being hammered by the recession which cuts tax receipts while boosting demands for assistance to the unemployed.
Needed: a jolt to the economy
At a meeting last week to announce the members of his economic team, Obama said the economy needed a dose of new federal spending “significant enough that it really gives a jolt to the economy.” But he ducked the issue of how big the package should be, saying, “I don’t want to get into numbers now.”
The governors don’t hesitate to get into numbers. The NGA estimates that in the next two years states could face budget gaps totaling $140 billion. “We do need federal help,” says Pennsylvania’s Democratic Governor Ed Rendell, NGA chairman. Without assistance, states will “have to make continuing cuts and raise taxes,” he said at a press conference in Washington.
Rendell argued for major new federal spending on infrastructure and renewable energy projects. He said such projects would create 40,000 new jobs for each $1 billion spent and that states have $136 billion of such projects ready to go with little delay.
Of the projects states have ready to roll out, “well over 70 percent are transportation” related, Rendell said. They are “not curbside repairing,” Rendell said, but “major, major” projects likes bridges and roads.
Helping strengthen the safety ne
The NGA chairman also argued for increased federal funding for safety net programs like unemployment insurance and Medicaid.
States are not asking the federal government to make up all of their revenue losses, said Vermont Governor Jim Douglas, a Republican who serves as vice chairman of the NGA. “States are not just coming to Washington with hands out,” but are also cutting their spending, he said.
‘We are in this for the long haul,” Governor Douglas told the Washington press conference. The economic downturn “will be with us for a couple of years.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Rendell and Douglas at the Capitol on Monday. Before that session, she said she hoped to have an economic stimulus program ready for President Obama’s signature on January 20. “We hope to be ready when Congress comes into session as the President-elect makes his imprint,” she said.
Governors Rendell and Douglas made the case for federal aid to the states on a day when the National Bureau of Economic Research made the official announcement that the nation entered a recession in December 2007. That marked the end of an economic expansion which began in November 2001.