Lingle meets Obama and feels his 'burden'


POSTED: Tuesday, February 24, 2009

After a formal dinner at the White House over the weekend, the nation's governors met yesterday with President Barack Obama and members of his Cabinet to discuss the ailing economy and the $787 billion in federal money expected to start flowing soon to help states through the crisis.

The session with Obama was part of the National Governors Association's winter meetings, which concluded yesterday.

“;He was very candid with the governors,”; Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle said afterward. “;I think we all felt some of the burden that he has on him right now. He talked about the magnitude of what they face.”;

Lingle has been in Washington, D.C., since Thursday for the winter meetings and talks with various other federal agencies to discuss the economic stimulus package and how Hawaii can benefit.

Some of the money is set to start flowing tomorrow. Obama announced he would release $15 billion this week to states to help make up costs for Medicaid reimbursements.

“;It's based on a formula,”; Lingle said. “;Any of the funding that is formula-based will move pretty quickly.”;

Obama stressed the need for accountability and transparency in how the governors plan to spend the stimulus funds.

Lingle has said her administration is studying the aspects of the stimulus bill and has not said she would oppose any federal funds, as some Republican governors have stated recently over concerns that the plan might be overly large and wasteful.

One issue is a proposed expansion of state unemployment benefits for part-time workers and others who were previously ineligible to receive the funding. Republican governors, including Mark Sanford of South Carolina and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, say they might not accept that funding because it will require a tax increase on employers once the stimulus money runs out.

Lingle said she did not see that as unusual.

“;You want it to be consistent with the administration's policies,”; Lingle said at a governors' news conference. “;You don't want it to create future obligations that you may not be able to pay, so these are all things that you consider on a regular basis.

“;It's not unusual, in my opinion.”; Lingle also spoke of her first meeting with Obama, which took place at the formal White House dinner Sunday night.

“;The very first thing the president said to me was, 'Tell everyone at home I said hi,'”; Lingle said. “;And the last thing he said to me when he left the room today was, 'I'll see ya back home.'”;


The Associated Press contributed to this report.