Economy, Politics Dominate Governors’ Summer Meeting

By: - July 12, 2000 12:00 am

The 92nd annual National Governors’ Association summer meeting wound down on the picturesque campus of Pennsylvania State University Tuesday as a majority of the nation’s 50 governors brought their traveling road show to a close.

The meeting occurred mostly behind closed doors. Even so, clear patterns emerged, not the least of which is Corporate America’s growing focus — and influence — on state-level policy making.

Texas Gov. George Bush, the putative Republican candidate for president in the November election, skipped the State College proceedings, as did his brother, Florida Republican Gov. Jeb Bush. But there was plenty of buzz about which governor might have a shot at being the Democrat or Republican choice for vice president.

Democratic North Carolina Gov. James Hunt was frequently mentioned as a likely VP choice on Vice President Al Gore’s Democratic ticket, while Pennsylvania’s Tom Ridge danced around the question of whether Bush wanted him as a running mate.

Before the governors packed up and headed home Tuesday, Democratic Delaware Gov. Thomas Carper announced the launch of a Web-based initiative on emerging education policy issues. It will be run by the NGA’s Center for Best Practices.

Also, Michigan’s Republican chief executive, John Engler, announced that Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, Utah, Washington and Wyoming will participate in a special 18-month project that will help those states support the efforts of entrepreneurs.

Thirty-eight governors attended the meeting, which featured keynote addresses by President Bill Clinton, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan and retired Gen. Colin Powell.

They spent much of the discussion with the phrase “new economy” ringing in their ears, reflecting the importance of economic development and the Internet.

Opening day protests by a gun rights group and two busloads of welfare advocates who took a four-hour ride from Philadelphia were all for naught, since the protesters were not allowed within earshot of the governors.

At least 50 uniformed and plain-clothes Pennsylvania state troopers on foot and on horseback made sure the protesters got no closer than 1,000 feet from the meeting.

The only group that enjoyed generous access to the governors were business executives, who sat in on many of the meeting closed to the public and the media. Corporate America contributes something less than million of NGA’s million annual budget.

“We have a corporate fellows program of about 80 corporations that pay about ,000 each,” NGA Executive Director Ray Scheppach said.

However, about 108 companies anted up roughly .2 million toward the cost of the State College gathering, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette , and they got maximum mileage from those dollars. Corporate lobbyists sat shoulder-to-shoulder with state chief executives during the roundtable discussions, private luncheons and open forums.

The names of many of those contributors, a Who’s-Who of Fortune 500 companies, were prominently shown on a elaborate display set up in one of the meeting centers.

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