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Obama seeks to assure nervous governors on economy

Obama seeks to assure nervous governors on economy

President-elect Barack Obama pledged quick work Tuesday on an economic recovery plan to include tax cuts and increased federal spending, and told U.S. governors he wants their advice in designing a package to help their hard-hit states.
The governors are urging Obama to back billions of dollars in funding for health care and infrastructure.
The governors' pleas reflect the power Obama is already wielding well ahead of his Jan. 20 inauguration. He and fellow Democrats controlling Congress are fashioning economic recovery legislation that could cost $500 billion or so.
The measure is virtually certain to contain help for states struggling with slumping revenues and difficult budget cuts as the recession deepens. Democrats hope to have it ready for Obama's signature as soon as he takes office.
"We intend to put tax cuts into the pockets of hard-pressed middle class families in your states. And we intend ... to start making a down payment on the critical investments that are going to be necessary to sustain long-term economic growth as well as pull us out of the current slump," Obama said as he sat down with governors, nearly all of whom are struggling with budget deficits at home as a result of the recession.
The recession and the accompanying increase in joblessness translate into higher health care costs for the poor and added strain on welfare programs, and the governors are seeking help in coping.
They have asked for at least $40 billion to help pay for health care for the poor and disabled and perhaps $136 billion more in infrastructure projects like road and bridge repairs in the legislation, which Democrats hope to have ready for Obama's signature as soon as he takes office.
Obama's aides and congressional leaders have been discussing the outlines of a measure that could exceed $500 billion over two years. The president-elect has said his goal is to secure 2.5 million jobs.
In his brief remarks, Obama pledged a partnership with the governors, Republicans and Democrats alike. "As president, I'm not simply asking the nation's governors to help implement our economic plan," he said. "I'm going to be interested in you helping to draft and shape that economic plan."
He made a point of promising Republican governors "the hand of friendship, the same commitment to partnership as a do my Democratic colleagues."
Obama spoke to a bipartisan group of state chief executives at historic Congress Hall that included former and possibly future political rivals. Among those in attendance were Republicans Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Sarah Palin of Alaska, the Republican vice presidential nominee in this year's campaign.
Republican and Democratic governors sat at desks in the hall, with no separation by party, and gave Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden a standing ovation.
Biden singled out Palin _ his debate adversary from the campaign _ for thanks and said his former rival's presence there is a sign that both parties are now confronting problems together. "Maybe walk outside with me later and say hello to me," he said to laughter from the crowd.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Palin said she was "optimistic" about Obama's bipartisan outreach. She also praised him for inviting governors into his Cabinet.
"On the campaign trail I tried to convince a majority of voters that governors knew best. Obviously that didn't work, and I'm here and V.P.-elect Biden is there," she said of her former adversary.
Ed Rendell, the Pennsylvania governor and chairman of the National Governors Association, told reporters on Monday: "We simply need help. When the economy is bad, the social service net demands grow."
Rendell said there are upward of $136 billion in infrastructure projects that are "ready to go," chiefly road and bridge repair projects that can get started especially quickly. Water and sewer projects and school repairs are other needs.
The economic stimulus measure is expected to blend funding for infrastructure projects and health care program aid to the states with tax cuts, a temporary increase in payments for some welfare programs, as well as investments in renewable energy projects and other "green jobs" initiatives.
Obama's meeting with the governors comes a day after he introduced a strong-willed national security team headed by former rival Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bush administration holdover Robert Gates. With the announcements Monday, Obama has finished naming the highest profile members of his administration seven weeks before taking office.
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Associated Press reporters Liz Sidoti in Philadelphia and Andrew Taylor and Nedra Pickler in Washington contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-10-20 05:24 GMT+08:00