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GOP Details Plans to Give States More Power, Prestige

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hoisting a sign proclaiming the sovereignty of states’ rights, new Republican congressional leaders and a phalanx of GOP governors outlined plans Friday for bringing more power, more prestige and less federal intrusion to the 50 states.

Calling themselves “a new team and a new partnership,” House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and 15 of the nation’s 31 Republican governors emerged from a two-hour strategy session warning that Congress must enact a series of major reforms to give state officials more autonomy in how they run their governments.

They called for an end to the federal government’s system of mandating programs that cost local governments millions of dollars--a sweeping change that leaders say could come as early as next week.

They urged a balanced-budget amendment similar to those in place in most of the states--a proposal many Republicans have vowed to push through Congress despite Democratic opposition.

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And they proposed welfare reform to allow the states--not Washington--to decide how best to help the poor.

“This is what this is all about,” said Dole, helping to hold high the placard that quoted the 10th Amendment and its admonition that the federal government cannot take away powers reserved to the states.

Gov. Mike Leavitt of Utah, chairman of the Republican Governors’ Assn., said an array of initiatives that state leaders want passed while the spirit of reform rides high in Congress was discussed at the closed-door luncheon.

He said that Dole and Gingrich, for example, gave the governors a commitment that includes a vote next week on restricting costly mandates that the federal government imposes on states and communities and a vote later on a balanced-budget amendment.

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In addition, he said, the governors discussed proposals for reforming welfare to give state and local leaders a clear say in how to assist the poor.

“We’re making dramatic progress,” Leavitt said. “We want to ensure that we have not just balanced budgets but balanced power, and that we will have actual reduction in government and not simply a shifting in government responsibility.”

Shrinking the federal government “will be bitter and the recovery will be painful, but it can be done,” Leavitt said. “It’s been done in states. We have seen good times and we have seen bad times. In each case we have exercised financial discipline.”

Gov. Edward T. Schafer of North Dakota said that he disagrees with many critics that a balanced national budget will force state governments to increase spending to continue many of the popular social programs begun years ago by Washington.

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“In North Dakota,” he said, “this is the first year that the cost of (state and local) governments (has) gone down in 10 years. It happened because we had job growth.”

Gov. David Beasley of South Carolina said that most government growth at the local and state levels has been a result of federal mandates that have forced communities to pay for expensive programs enacted in Washington. “You eliminate federal mandates and we’ll be able to reduce our state and local governments.”

Michigan Gov. John Engler said that welfare reform would best be accomplished by converting the funding for hundreds of highly regulated federal programs now administered by states into a handful of broad grants that could be administered with a minimum of federal oversight.

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But the path to change will not be without obstacles.

For instance, the House Budget Committee and the full Senate on Friday voted against measures to force the GOP to outline how it would balance the budget in seven years.

Nevertheless, House Budget Committee Chairman John R. Kasich (R-Ohio), who met with the governors, predicted that the budget would be balanced by then.


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