President Bush told the nation's governors Monday "we are going to have to fight together" to win congressional approval for his plan to transfer billions of dollars in domestic programs to the states.
"I am not naive," Bush said at a White House meeting.Governors had high praise for the Bush plan but acknowledged it would require intense lobbying of Congress to win approval.
"I think the president is sincere in terms of wanting to give that degree of flexibility" to the states, Democratic Gov. Douglas Wilder of Virginia said on ABC-TV's "Good Morning America" program. "The question now is whether Congress will go along with it."
Only a few hours before the White House meeting, the governors saw Bush's list of about $21 billion in proposed block grant programs in the new federal budget. By 1996, the programs would be worth about $22 billion.
The proposed grants were in five areas: $1.77 billion in education; $2.20 billion in Environmental Protection Agency construction grants; $9.66 billion in welfare, social services and energy assistance to low income families; $6.90 billion for housing and community development programs; and $421 million for law enforcement assistance.
Bush told the governors his plan would be "fully funded. It is something I am very grateful to those who have spoken out on it already."
Gov. Booth Gardner, a Washington Democrat who chairs the National Governors' Association, said on NBC's "Today" show that the Bush plan was "very attractive."
The budget message said the turnover of programs "allows the federal government to reduce overhead. It allows the states to manage a pool of financial resources more flexibly."
Gov. Pete Wilson, R-Calif., said, "Congress can hold us accountable. We don't object to that. But we don't want them telling us how to manage."