Many of the nation's governors say they think President Bush will be more attuned to domestic needs than his predecessor, although they've been given a blunt warning that more budget pain is headed their way.
The governors were hearing from Cabinet officers and other top administration officials Monday as part of the annual winter meeting of the National Governors' Association, which opened Saturday.It's their first bipartisan gathering since last November's election.
Bush's budget director, Richard Darman, declined an invitation to meet with the governors. But they heard a frank assessment Sunday from the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Sen. James Sasser, who warned, "We're fresh out of cash here in Washington."
An Associated Press survey of governors before their arrival found that most state executives respect Bush's "no new taxes" pledge and are holding off on calls for raising revenue to reduce the federal deficit.
Governors in both parties said Bush's promise of a "kinder, gentler America" suggested his administration will be more receptive to state needs than was President Reagan, whose administration dramatically reduced federal aid flowing to states.
"I think he's already shown himself more receptive to domestic problems," said Republican Gov. Thomas Kean of New Jersey, who cited housing as the top domestic need.
Michigan's Democratic Gov. James Blanchard said Bush "has the potential of being, from Michigan's point of view, a better president than Ronald Reagan. Not necessarily more popular, but more compassionate."
At the same time, however, governors voiced concern that Bush's proposed federal budget for fiscal 1990 will bring another round of domestic spending cuts that will require increased spending by the states.
"We won't become a `kinder and gentler' nation until we address our domestic needs, such as children at risk, the homeless and the mentally ill," said Washington state's Democratic Gov. Booth Gardner.
Bush's 1988 Democratic opponent, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, said he'd wait to see whether Bush follows through on domestic needs.
"I hope so, but I'm very concerned about his budget, which is looking for cuts of over $5 billion in Medicare and a number of other areas which will have a devastating effect on health care and important human needs," Dukakis said.
Bangerter on poll closings
Gov. Norm Bangerter said on Monday that he oopposes uniform closing of election polling places.
He made the comments following an hourlong breakfast meeting of Western governors at the U.S. Capitol.
Bangerter, attending the winter meetings of the National Governors' Association, said problems caused by voting results of Eastern states affecting voters inthe West can best be handled by requiring states in the Eastern Time Zone to hold their polls open until 9 p.m. election night. States farther west could set their own closing time.
Utah could close its voting booths at 8 p.m. and the hour difference would not give the television networks time to report Eastern results.
Bangerter is scheduled to fly to Delaware on Tuesday to meet with David Hollingsworth, chairman of Hercules Inc., to discuss the company's plans for its Utah facilities.