WASHINGTON – This much the nation’s governors can agree on: Most of them spent quite a bit of time Friday to Monday meeting with President Obama and White House officials about issues facing their states.
Whether that time resulted in any positive agreements, well, that opinion split on party lines.
“I talked to him about job creation,” Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said of his talks with the president. “He’s very much focused on what we can do to move our economy forward and create jobs – and his priorities are the governors’ priorities and that is to do everything possible to make that happen.”
Dayton’s table at lunch Monday included new White House Chief of Staff William Daley, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (whom Dayton served with when Salazar was a Colorado senator) and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the top federal official in charge of implementing the health reform law.
“I thanked her for her terrific help in getting these health care planning grants and exchange programs funded,” Dayton said, adding that it was a “good table” and he had a “good chance to talk with them.”
First Lady Michelle Obama spoke about increasing support for troops returning home, which prompted Dayton to suggest to White House officials that they look to Minnesota’s Beyond the Yellow Ribbon program for inspiration in crafting a national response organization.
However, evaluations of the summit from Republican governors weren’t nearly as sunny — and mainly because of health care.
Obama on Monday offered a health reform olive branch to Republican governors Monday, saying he supports allowing states to opt out of much of the health reform law, so long as the results met the same targets and their efforts didn’t increase the deficit.
Republicans, at first blush, weren’t all that interested.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said most GOP governors had fundamental philosophical objections to the health care law that will be difficult to overcome, no matter what compromises the White House puts forward.
“This offers a little bit of flexibility, which I think is a positive thing, but it doesn’t change the overall objection to the bill,” Brownback said of the waiver proposal.
Chris Christie of New Jersey said the waivers would arrive too late for governors grappling with deep budget holes.
“There is a lot of fine print there and, candidly, I might not even be governor in 2014,” said Christie, who is up for re-election in 2013. “So the fact that he is offering flexibility in by 2014 is really of no moment to governors who need to balance their budgets this year.”