House Speaker-designate John Boehner will hold a summit in the Capitol on December 1 with newly elected Republican governors in an effort to solicit ideas on how to reduce federal spending, repeal President Obama’s health care law, and create jobs, National Journal has learned.
Incoming governors who have committed to attend include: Robert Bentley of Alabama, Rick Scott of Florida, Terry Branstad of Iowa, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Paul LePage of Maine, Rick Snyder of Michigan, Brian Sandoval of Nevada, Susana Martinez of New Mexico, John Kasich of Ohio, Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota, Bill Haslam of Tennessee, and Matt Mead of Wyoming.
"Washington doesn't have all the answers, and the best solutions usually come from outside the Beltway," Boehner will say in a statement prepared for release later today. "Republicans may still be outnumbered in Washington, but with the American people and reform-minded governors standing with us, there's a lot we can do together to stop runaway government spending and help small businesses get back to creating jobs."
In addition to the summit, Boehner will assign a top staffer, Will Kinzel, to lead his office's outreach and coordination with Republican governors nationwide.
Kinzel, who joined Boehner in early 2009 as adviser and counselor, will work on the governor portfolio full-time. Boehner wants to harness ideas and reformist passions from GOP governors to reduce spending, weed out earmarks, and pick apart the health care law, as well as evaluate the effectiveness of stimulus spending and find ways to block or return obligated stimulus funds that haven't been spent.
Boehner's office says he envisions a collaborative effort with the Republican governors that will be similar to one that resulted in pushing through the 1996 welfare reforms. GOP governors played a big role in the Newt Gingrich-led 1995 Congress, fashioning a welfare reform compromise that President Clinton eventually signed. The outreach to governors is one significant way Boehner is flattering Gingrich with imitation.
Of the governors who will attend, two were part of the GOP-led Congress that pressed a center-right reformist agenda in 1995-96 – Kasich and Brownback. Branstad was governor of Iowa at the time and also contributed to Republican reforms enacted by the 104th Congress.
These governors will arrive in Washington with precious little patience for Beltway reluctance to impose spending cuts or fiscal discipline. All will arrive with budget deficits that have to be dealt with - and in some instances with waves of red ink that comprise a fifth, a quarter, a third, or even half of the projected budget for fiscal year 2011. Florida’s projected deficit of $4.7 billion, for example, is a fifth of the entire state budget for next year. Nevada’s $1.8 billion shortfall is a whopping 54 percent of next year’s budget. Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan - industrial heartland states where Republicans scored big gubernatorial victories - all face big budget deficits and will rapidly test the ability of newly elected GOP governors to achieve balance without sacrificing vital services or generating massive political backlash.
In other words, the GOP governors will come to Washington with far less latitude than the Republican governors the GOP Congress worked with in 1995, when the U.S. economy was growing and job creation, while not robust, was steady and state budgets were in much better shape.
Here are the latest deficit numbers facing the new GOP governors:
Alabama: $586 million deficit (8.3 percent of FY ’11 budget)
Florida: $4.7 billion (20.2 percent of FY ‘11)
Iowa: $1.1 billion (18.9 percent of FY’11)
Kansas: $510 million (8.7 percent of FY ‘11)
Maine: $940 million (34.7 percent of FY ‘11)
Michigan: $2 billion (9.2 percent of FY ‘11)
Nevada: $1.8 billion (54 percent of FY ‘11)
New Mexico: $333 million (6.2 percent of FY ‘11)
Ohio: $3 billion (11.3 percent of FY ‘11)
Oklahoma: $725 million (14.8 percent of FY ‘11)
Pennsylvania: $4.1 billion (15.6 percent of FY ‘11)
South Carolina: $1.3 billion (25.6 percent of FY ‘11)
Tennessee: $1 billion (9.8 percent of FY ‘11)
Wyoming: $147 million (10.3 percent of FY ‘11)
This article appears in the November 29, 2010, edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.