Michael Chandler on assignment in SEATTLE - Democratic governors from battleground states lashed out at President Bush as they gathered here this weekend for the annual National Governors Association meeting. Polls show Bush slightly ahead of Massachusetts Senator John Kerry in this swing state where the 6.1 percent jobless rate remains above the 5.6 percent national rate. Previewing some of the themes that will be sounded next week in Boston when Kerry and his running mate Senator John Edwards accept their party's presidential and VP nominations, the governors said the President's economic policies have put a squeeze on states'and voters' budgets and should cost Bush the election.
"The states have had to go it alone," Colorado Gov. Bill Owens told reporters at a gathering of Democrats attending the three-day conference. He said states like Washington need federal support to turn around high unemployment rates and relieve the rising costs of health care. A Kerry-Edwards ticket will provide "real economic leadership," he said by creating jobs and offering tax relief to average Americans. In Iowa, another swing state, health care is a pivotal issue for voters according to Gov. Thomas Vilsack, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. "We need security,? Vilsack said, ?not just homeland, but health care security." He said that Medicare has been under-funded by the federal government and states must bear the brunt of the expense. Health care was the topic of conversation for governors in both parties this weekend, as the annual meeting focused on how to handle financial and logistical demands of long-term care for the 77 million baby boomers who will retire over the next ten years.Democrats argued that Bush's record shows he would be the wrong president to partner with states and usher in that decade.Wisconsin Gov. James Doyle (D) said, under the Bush administration, he has had to make some of "the biggest cuts ever to state government." He described his health care budget as "in pieces." I think the president will have a very hard time saying he's worked hard to create jobs and reduce the cost of health care," Doyle said. Gore won Wisconsin by one-tenth of one percent in 2000, and competition for this state is expected to stay tight this year.In Oregon, where Gore eaked out a victory with 7,000 votes in 2000, the economy is improving, but unemployment remains a critical issue for the coming election, said Theresa McHugh, chief of staff for Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski. The jobless rate there is around 6.8 percent, down from 8 percent, the nation's high during the recession. Democratic Gov. Bob Wise of West Virginia - an up-for-grabs state where both presidential hopefuls have been twice in the past two weeks to campaign - criticized the president for stalling a transportation bill that would help bring immediate job relief. "We could put 1,000 people to work right away,? he saidPassage of the transportation bill is also important to Michigan, where 222,000 jobs have been lost since 2000. In Ohio, another battleground state right next door, Republican Gov. Robert Taft, put a more positive light on a persisting unemployment rate around 5.8 percent.He said while job gains have been small, "the economy has turned a corner." He praised the president for lowering taxes and expanding free trade - helpful in a state where 250,000 jobs are tied to the export industry.With Bush in the White House for another four years, he added, "We hope the gains in the economy will continue."Posted by Susan Rasky at July 17, 2004 03:46 PM