Government

Governors ask: Does Congress not trust us?

National governors meeting focus on state, federal government relationship

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad makes remarks at the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington in 2014. (
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad makes remarks at the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington in 2014. (REUTERS/Mike Theiler)

DES MOINES — Some of the nation’s governors worry federal lawmakers do not trust them enough to include wiggle room for states to tweak new federal laws and programs.

That was one of the messages governors conveyed to U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley during this weekend’s summer meeting of the National Governors Association.

Pelosi and Grassley, Iowa’s senior U.S. senator, appeared at the event to address state and federal government relationships.

The governors asked the congressional representatives how they can better strike a balance between accountability and flexibility for states with new federal laws. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said sometimes governors get the feeling federal lawmakers do not trust states to properly implement federal programs.

“I wouldn’t back away from the word accountability, and you aren’t either,” Grassley said during his appearance on Friday. “I hope I’m never one of those that says I don’t trust the states. … You can’t make policy in Washington, D.C., that fits New York like it does Des Moines.”

Pelosi said the question of states’ flexibility is the one she has received most over the years from governors, and that she does not want governors to feel as though they are not trusted by federal lawmakers.

“It’s not even a question of trust. It’s a question of the purpose of the (federal) funds that go out,” Pelosi said. “If you think for a minute it’s about a lack of trust, then let’s address that. …

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“That is the classic question. … Clearly we have not addressed it sufficiently because it continues to raise its head.”

Grassley suggested part of the issue may be that governors and the impact to states rarely are considered when federal policy is being crafted.

“Maybe not at all, but at least not very often does the impact on states get much attention (in Congress),” Grassley said. “You want me to give you advice. I don’t have any. But be aware of it and be active.”

When asked on what issues governors could work with and help federal lawmakers on a bipartisan basis, both Grassley and Pelosi mentioned infrastructure.

“I always come back to infrastructure because no matter what we have done, and we have done some good things, we have to do more,” Pelosi said. “Science and technology are moving so quickly.”

Grassley said governors would be well-served to urge federal lawmakers to approve federal infrastructure spending in a timely fashion.

“Put the pressure on us to make sure that’s fully funded,” Grassley told the governors.

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