WASHINGTON—Governors from across the nation convened in Washington, D.C., today for the 2014 National Governors Association (NGA) Winter Meeting. The meeting provides governors an opportunity to discuss issues affecting states, share innovative solutions and look for ways to strengthen the state-federal partnership. The meeting also will include sessions with the President, members of his cabinet, business leaders and other experts, as well as several governors-only meetings.
NGA Chair Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and NGA Vice Chair Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper addressed attendees and the media during an opening news conference Saturday morning.
“Governors across this country are making government work every single day,” said Gov. Fallin. “While Washington remains mostly gridlocked – preventing long-term solutions – we are addressing challenges by reforming education, building infrastructure, improving health care and developing energy resources. Governors do not have the luxury of standing still. Our hope is that our federal partners will do their part and take action.”
Gov. Fallin outlined flexible federalism – the need to give states the flexibility to improve programs and policies and to support them in those efforts, noting that governors’ principles remain the same:
· Federal reforms should produce savings for both the federal government and states;
· Deficit reduction should not be accomplished by shifting costs to states or imposing unfunded mandates;
· States should be given increased flexibility to create efficiencies and achieve results; and
· Congress should not impose maintenance-of-effort provisions on states as a condition of funding.
“States are innovating at all levels and leading the country in finding solutions to often complex issues,” said Gov. Fallin. “Governors need flexibility to take care of the unique needs of our citizens and the challenges facing our states.”
“Our children need either a two-year or four-year college degree or relevant workforce certification to compete in today’s global economy,” continued Gov. Fallin. “My initiative highlights a ‘new minimum’ for economic success. The initiative also aims to help states overcome the gaps between their education and training and the workforce those systems are preparing our young people to enter.”
Jeffrey R. Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric, will address governors on this topic during the opening session.
Gov. Hickenlooper also highlighted education as a priority issue for governors, emphasizing the need for Congress to make long overdue reforms to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act by making changes that emphasize both flexibility and local control for states to pursue innovative polices that meet their own unique needs. Sunday’s Education and Workforce Committee session will focus on early childhood education, and governors will be joined by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Another area of importance for governors is health care. Gov. Hickenlooper discussed the Health Care Sustainability Task Force led by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam. The task force was created to identify and share best practices, develop recommendations to strengthen the state-federal partnership and improve the quality of health care while reducing costs. Governors will discuss the findings of that task force this weekend.
As states tirelessly work to slow the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse, governors on the Health and Human Services Committee will participate in a roundtable discussion on the successes and challenges they face.
“Last year, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and I co-chaired an NGA initiative to help states curb prescription drug abuse,” said Gov. Hickenlooper. “Through the Prescription Drug Abuse Project, we sought to help states implement strategies to lower the number of deaths and emergency room visits related to prescription drug overdoses while still giving access to necessary medication.”
The Natural Resources Committee will meet to talk about an environmentally sound path to energy self-sufficiency that creates opportunities for economic growth. Among the guests for that session will be U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.
“Across the country, governors are leading the effort to make full use of every energy resource – natural gas, oil, wind, coal, nuclear, solar – and to reduce our country’s dependence on foreign oil,” said Gov. Hickenlooper. “I joined Gov. Fallin last fall in a bipartisan forum on shale energy that allowed officials to share best practices and learn about new approaches to responsible development. We are strengthening our energy independence by developing shale gas responsibly and promoting the full array of domestic energy resources and energy efficiency.”
Other highlights of the weekend include:
· A discussion about employment trends in states, growth opportunities and the changing economic climate during a special session moderated by Maria Bartiromo, anchor and global markets editor for Fox Business Network and the Fox News Channel.
· The Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee meeting about the future of the National Guard with General Frank Grass, a member of the joint chiefs of staff and the chief of the National Guard Bureau. Governors have continuously called on the Secretary of Defense and Congress to protect the National Guard from damaging reductions to ensure its capabilities and quality.
· An Economic Development and Commerce Committee session on transportation reauthorization, an issue that has remained a top priority for the nation’s governors.
· The annual White House dinner on Sunday night and the governors-only meeting with the President on Monday, followed by a final news conference.