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Governors ask for money, but Bush has little

©Associated Press

February 25, 2003

WASHINGTON -- Governors from both parties joined forces Monday to ask for federal money for homeland security, special education and President Bush's education program.

Bush met with the nation's governors, gathered in Washington for an annual meeting, and told them tax cuts and health care reform would boost their ailing economies but would leave scant hope of immediate extra cash.

Bush was blunt about the realities. "Our budget is in a deficit. It's because we went through a recession. And we're at war," he told the National Governors Association.

"We face common challenges. I look forward to working with you all to meet those challenges," he said. He took more than a dozen questions in private and discussed health care, homeland security, tax cuts and foreign policy, governors said.

The governors also heard details of the administration's plan to give states more power over their Medicaid programs. Several expressed concerns that states would have to make cuts down the road to make up for extra money they would get over the next several years.

Later Monday, governors overcame a partisan divide -- Republicans had killed a broad request for immediate fiscal relief -- to approve a statement that Washington was not providing enough money for homeland security, special education and Bush's education program, which he calls "Leave No Child Behind."

Republicans, backing away from further criticism, refused to include specific dollar requests.

"Generally speaking, we're saying "no more unfunded mandates,' " said Republican John Rowland of Connecticut. "They all carry price tags. Yes, we need more money, and we'll try to get what we can."

Gov. Ed Rendell, D-Pa., said Bush made clear that "beyond flexibility and some money for homeland security, he's not going to be very helpful." He estimated the states would seek $10-billion to $12-billion for the three areas.

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