I believe the states, in fact, are the best hope we have to turn the nation around. —Gov. Gary Herbert
SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Gary Herbert and several governors met Tuesday with President Barack Obama to talk about issues facing states.
The governors — three Republicans and three Democrats that comprise the National Governors Association executive committee — spent about 90 minutes in the Oval Office with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden talking about energy, transportation, public lands and health care.
"I think there seems to be acknowledgement of the potential overreach of the federal government," Herbert said. "It's always a debate to find that optimal point."
The hot topic in Utah that has generated sharp criticism of the federal government and the Obama administration the past few weeks — same-sex marriage — did not come up, he said.
Herbert said the discussion centered on more flexibility for states and less federal regulation, themes the governors have raised with the president in past meetings.
"I believe the states, in fact, are the best hope we have to turn the nation around," he said.
Herbert will become vice chairman of the governors association this summer and is line to be chairman in 2015. The position alternates annually between a Republican and a Democrat. He said it would give him an opportunity to showcase the "Utah model" and bring the state a higher profile around the country.
Herbert said he found Obama "more casual and less defensive" Tuesday than at last year's meeting with governors when the nation faced the fiscal cliff crisis.
"He felt like there was kind of truce in Washington, D.C., right now, that both sides of the aisle have things they think they can run with," he said.
The governors also talked about national guards in light of military cutbacks and the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, Herbert said. They wanted to make sure the administration understood that national guards are a good investment.
"We are a little more efficient and effective, we believe, in the military with our state national guards than with the regular Army," Herbert said.