President-elect Barack Obama, who promised a new partnership between the federal government and the states, meets face-to-face today with the nation's governors, who are clamoring for a meaty piece of his economic stimulus plan.
Obama is pushing for a substantial package -- including infrastructure improvements and investments in alternative energy -- to create or save 2.5 million jobs in his first two years as president. And he wants it on his desk soon after he takes office Jan. 20.
For the governors, who are having to slash budgets as tax revenues plummet as the economy slows, help can't come soon enough. The leaders of the National Governors Association, who are hosting today's session in Philadelphia, told reporters that they want $136 billion or more in road and bridge repairs and other infrastructure projects, plus at least $40 billion to help pay for healthcare for the poor and disabled.
"We're going to be talking about what the elements of an economic stimulus plan will be," Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, a personal friend and political ally of Obama's, told the Associated Press.
Obama reached out to the governors, saying that "it is in state and local governments that the most meaningful changes take place and the most difficult decisions must be made."
Then, he promised to act assertively and quickly to help lift the nation out of recession.
"To solve this crisis and to ease the burden on our states, we're going to need action -- and we're going to need action quickly. That means passing an economic recovery plan for both Wall Street and Main Street that jump-starts our economy... helps save or create two point five million jobs, puts tax cuts into the pockets of hard-pressed middle class families, and makes a down payment on the critical investments we need to build a strong economy for years to come," he said. "Change is not going to come from Washington alone. It will come from all of you.... That is the kind of strong partnership I intend to build as president of the United States.
"But the partnership we begin here cannot -- and will not -- end here," Obama added. "As president, I'm not simply asking the nation’s governors to help implement our economic recovery plan. I will ask you to help design and draft that plan.....
"I know these are difficult times... and we’re going to have to make hard choices in the months ahead about how to invest these tax dollars....Not all those choices will be popular. But I promise you this -- I will seek your counsel. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.
"A special message I want to deliver to my Republican colleagues who are here. I offer you the same hand of friendship and cooperation that I offer our Democratic governors. There is a time for campaigning and there is a time for governing."
Vice president-elect Joe Biden told the governors that during the campaign, local and state officials would point out local landmarks and would say "This used to be" -- as in this used to be a steel mill or another major facility. "We’ll know we’ve turned the corner when we hear a lot less 'This used to be…' and a lot more 'this is going to be,' " Biden said.
Biden also gave a shout-out to Sarah Palin, the Alaska governor who was the Republican vice presidential nominee, saying that her attendance shows that when campaigns end, everyone works together. He joked that since the election, he has been virtually ignored unlike Palin, a media star. "Maybe walk outside with me later and say hello to me," he said to laughter from the crowd.
Palin told reporters afterwards that she feels the same way about the campaign being over and working in a bipartisan way, and said she appreciated Obama asking for governors' advice.
"Governors do know best on some of those issues," she said.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.