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Obama Meets with Governors on Economy


U.S. President Barack Obama says the nation's governors will be held accountable for money flowing into their states as part of his economic stimulus plan. The money should start arriving this week.

The plan includes billions of dollars to help states hard hit by the recession keep important programs and services in operation.

The first money to flow from Washington will be used to help states provide health care for those in need.

The president says $15 billion will be transferred from the federal government to state coffers on Wednesday.

"Children with asthma will be able to breathe easier, seniors won't need to fear losing their doctors, and pregnant women with limited means won't have to worry about the health of their babies," he said.

During a meeting with most of the 50 governors at the White House, President Obama stressed the importance of accountability.

He said when it comes to implementing the $787 billion stimulus package there is no room for error.

"We are addressing the greatest economic crisis we have seen in decades by investing unprecedented amounts of the American peoples' hard earned money," he said. "With that comes an unprecedented obligation to do so wisely, free from politics and personal agendas."

Mr. Obama said he is naming Earl Devaney, a government official who exposed corruption and waste at the U.S. Interior Department to head a new office that will monitor the distribution and use of stimulus funds. And he said Vice President Joe Biden will oversee the implementation of the plan.

"And the fact that I am asking my vice president to personally lead this effort shows how important it is for our country and our future to get this right," he said.

Governors from the president's own Democratic Party are strongly supportive of the stimulus package. Republican governors are more divided, with some refusing to take part of the money set aside for their states, while others are backing the president.

President Obama acknowledged in his remarks to the governors that there has been "a healthy debate" on the stimulus.

Vermont Governor Jim Douglas, speaking for the Republicans at the White House meeting, held out the hope that all sides could now come together as the plan enters the implementation phase.

"It is not a partisan issue to get America moving again," he said. "Both Republicans and Democrats have lost their jobs all across this country and we have to work together to put them back to work."

The session with the governors was the first of many events the president will have this week on the economy. Later Monday, he is hosting a summit of experts and lawmakers on the federal budget deficit. News reports say Mr. Obama intends to cut the deficit by half over four years.

The president will talk about his economic goals Tuesday night in a nationally broadcast speech before a joint session of Congress. And on Thursday, he will unveil his federal budget for the next fiscal year.

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