Gov. Norm Bangerter has met privately with newly appointed White House Chief of Staff John Sununu and has joined other GOP governors in saying he expects a strong working relationship with the administration of President-elect George Bush.

Bush is moving quickly to cement ties with the nation's Republican governors, who are meeting with GOP chief executives and party leaders at the annual National Republican Governors Conference."I've met with John Sununu," Bangerter said Monday. "I'm optimistic that this administration will be oriented more toward state's challenges and less regulation from the federal government, and I'm looking forward to meeting with the president-elect to discuss further some of these issues."

Bangerter and Sununu became close friends while Sununu was governor of New Hampshire.

Other Republican governors voiced similar optimism about Bush's regard for the concerns of states.

"I think this administration in Washington is going to be even more sensitive to the states," said Missouri Gov. John Ashcroft.

Bush staff and national Republican leaders were expected to attend a series of partisan workshops at the conference Monday. Bush is to meet with the conference Tuesday.

"We'll have a chance to carry our message to them," said Delaware Gov. Michael N. Castle, chairman of the conference.

Castle and Ashcroft made their comments Sunday aboard the USS Lexington, an aircraft carrier docked off Pensacola, Fla. Nine of the GOP governors, including Utah's Bangerter, put on flight helmets and flew by jet to the carrier for a tour.

Bangerter called the flight a "great experience."

"It's an indication of the strong quality in our national defense," he said. "As you know, I am strong supporter of our national defense."

Castle and others at the conference cited Sununu's selection as an example of the close lines of communication expected between the new administration and GOP statehouses.

Also taking part in the conference was Lee Atwater, the Bush campaign manager tapped to be the new chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Before the conference, being held in the Grand Hotel resort on Mobile Bay, most of the Republican governors made clear they support Bush on major domestic issues, including his pledge against new taxes.

"I think right now would be an inappropriate time to talk about new taxes," said New Mexico Gov. Garrey Carruthers.

"If he believes he can do without taxes, I am going to support him," said Florida Gov. Bob Martinez, who did not plan to attend the conference because of a legislative session. His and Carruthers' comments were made in interviews before the start of the forum.

Castle said the conference this year is unique in that a new administration is coming into power and the president-elect planned to attend along with influential members of the new administration.

"We will be able to lay out some of our priorities," he said.

Ashcroft added, "We want to develop an even better dialogue with the president-elect."

Alabama Gov. Guy Hunt, the conference host, was one of the few governors who said Bush may yet switch from his no-tax stand. He said Bush may support an increase in taxes if necessary after "you cut all the waste you possibly could."

But, he said, "not having looked at the books on the national level, I really couldn't answer the question."

Castle said he opposes more taxes, emphasizing that initiatives being taken at the state level are helping to reduce long-range government problems and costs.

"Welfare reform demonstrated the states' ability to put forward a workable solution to a complicated problem, one that will save a great deal of money in the long run by helping people get off welfare," he said.

"In virtually every area where the federal government mandates programs, I believe the states can do a better job in running them," Castle said.