By Libby Casey
Alaska Governor Sean Parnell attended a White House meeting Monday with other governors from around the country, and heard from President Obama about the economy, health care, and education. Parnell was in Washington for his first attendance of the National Governor’s Association annual winter meeting.
Parnell says despite his political differences with the Democratic Administration, time spent at the White House was productive.
Honestly, the Secretaries I’ve met with, their doors have been open, the President has been extremely gracious to all the governors. And I’ve got no complaints about that. So my hope is with the growing access we have to communicate Alaska’s message, that they too will come to appreciate jobs and economic recovery can happen in Alaska, and we need less federal government intervention to get there.
The governor and his wife were also at the White House Sunday night for a black-tie dinner, despite talking in the past about being “at war” with the federal government over policies he sees as intrusive.
Parnell says the Governors Association’s members – a mix of Republicans and Democrats – were able to find common ground. He was among 47 governors from states and territories who signed a letter to Congressional leaders asking them to extend increased federal spending on Medicaid. It was boosted as part of the Recovery Act stimulus bill signed by the President last year, but is set to expire in December.
Parnell says some governors also weighed-in on concerns about health care.
As governors we can have an impact on national policies. So when the federal government through health care legislation tries to pass unfunded mandates on to states, we say no, we say give us more flexibility when it comes to Medicaid funds for example so we can tailor those for residents and the needs of our state.
Parnell says he heard other governors talk about states in crisis that are billions of dollars in deficit. He says even though Alaska has a surplus, he shared with other governors the unique challenges faced up north.
When I talk with governors here and I tell them we still have honey buckets in some villages, we have sewage lagoons in others, they look at me incredulously, they can’t believe we still have villages like that. It helps make the case for those infrastructure dollars.
In addition to meeting with the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture, Parnell spent time this weekend talking with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
I invited her up this summer to come see Coast Guard facilities, as well as coastal erosion issues. And because I want to engage her in terms of Arctic policy & commerce in the north because homeland security plays such an important role there. And I want them to begin thinking about a Coast Guard port in northwest Alaska.
Parnell plans to return to Alaska today.