Obama Politics With the Governors

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After an evening of black tie grandeur at the White House, governors planned to return Monday morning for a business meeting with President Barack Obama to discuss how to spend the economic stimulus money soon flowing to their states.

Concluding a three-day winter meeting of the National Governors Association devoted largely to a discussion of the stimulus bill, governors planned to bring questions and offer ideas to Obama at a 90-minute meeting Monday morning.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat and the NGA chairman, said he planned to press the president on the need for more investment in infrastructure projects like road and bridge repair going forward.

“Although the stimulus program is a great first step, we want to impress on the president that it’s only a first step. We need to plan for the future, for the next five to 10 years,” Rendell said Sunday.

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a former Republican National Committee chairman who has criticized the stimulus plan, said he nonetheless looked forward to hearing Obama’s views on repairing the distressed economy.

“He’s a new president, and we certainly owe him that,” Barbour said.

White House officials said that for his part, Obama would stress the need for accountability and transparency in how the governors spend the stimulus funds. He issued a similar warning to the nation’s mayors on Friday, saying he would “call them out” if they waste the money.

At the governors’ meeting, Obama planned to name Earl Devaney, a former Secret Service agent who helped expose lobbyists’ corruption at the Interior Department, to head the new Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board. Vice President Joe Biden also will be given a role coordinating oversight of stimulus spending, officials said.

Obama created the board as an at-large body to oversee how the government spends the $787 billion stimulus package.

Sunday night, the president and first lady Michelle Obama hosted the governors for a black-tie dinner at the White House — the Obamas’ first since last month’s inauguration.

“Our goal is to make life easier and not harder for you during the time that we’re here in Washington,” Obama told the governors. “I want you to know that despite our occasional differences, my hope is that we can all work together.”

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