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Lingle will soon meet with Obama


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POSTED: Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gov. Linda Lingle leaves for Washington, D.C., this week for the annual winter meetings of the National Governors Association and additional talks with top Democratic leaders, including President Obama.

It would be Lingle's first meeting with Obama.

Lingle faced criticism, mostly from prominent local Democrats, after skipping a meeting of the nation's governors and Obama in December.

At the time, Lingle said scheduling conflicts prevented her from making the 4,000-mile trip for what amounted to a brief meet-and-greet session with the newly elected Obama. She said the move was not political and that she had planned all along to meet with the new administration during the National Governors Association event this month.

The winter meetings begin Saturday and conclude Monday.

Lingle is scheduled to arrive in Washington Thursday and stay though Feb. 27.

While she is there, the governor also plans to meet with members of Obama's Cabinet and members of Hawaii's congressional delegation to discuss the $787 billion economic stimulus bill that Obama is expected to sign today.

The state's share of funding for highways and transit, education and social services, housing and environment is estimated at $678 million, according to U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye's office. Inouye is chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.

“;We recognize that the money is going to flow in a variety of ways,”; said Linda Smith, Lingle's senior adviser on policy. “;We have been working quite closely with our congressional delegation to understand the details of the bill now that it has been written and passed.”;

Lingle plans to discuss some of the state's clean-energy, technology and infrastructure initiatives with Inouye, Smith said.

Specific programs she hopes to discuss include the state's broadband initiative, the highway modernization plan and a proposal to lay undersea cable to form a power grid so that Maui, Molokai and Lanai could feed wind-produced energy to Oahu, Smith said.

Lingle also plans to discuss the latest version of the bill for native Hawaiian recognition with U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka.

Many of the issues Lingle plans to discuss with the senators dovetail with the agenda set forth by the National Governors Association.

“;Rebuilding, repairing and maintaining a national infrastructure system that supports America's economic competitiveness, facilitates economic growth and is environmentally sustainable will be the key topic on the governors' meeting agenda this year,”; the NGA said on its Web site.

A formal dinner at the White House is set for Sunday night with the president and first lady Michelle Obama. Governors are to return to the White House on Monday for more substantive meetings with the president and his Cabinet.

Local Democrats are hopeful the governor is able to stress the importance of federal aid for the state's infrastructure and social service needs, said state Rep. Blake Oshiro, House majority leader.

“;If she can communicate what our needs are, I think all efforts are appreciated,”; said Oshiro (D, Aiea-Halawa).