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Obama Confers with US Governors on Economy, Health Care and Education

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U.S. President Barack Obama is turning to the nation's governors for help in meeting his domestic priorities.  State leaders came to the White House for closed-door discussions on the economy, health care and education.

The private meeting began with a few public remarks by the president, in which he focused on issues of vital interest to the governors.  He said they are working together to rebuild the economy, after a series of emergency measures to end the recession and help key industries survive.

Mr. Obama said he understands the toll the recession took on state governments that found themselves with less tax revenue and a rising need for services.

"Overall, the economy is in a better place than it was a year ago," he said. "We were contracting by six percent.  We are now growing by six percent.  But I know that your states are still in a very tough situation and too many Americans still have not felt the recovery in their own lives."

The president spoke about ongoing efforts to create jobs.  He also talked about actions to put America on a stronger economic footing in the future, by improving education standards across the country.

He said America's "primacy in the world" is at stake.

"I do not accept a United States of America that is second place," he said.  "That means that all of us have to work together to make sure that we are taking seriously the investments we make in our children's future."

States and local governments provide most of the funding for the nation's schools.  

Mr. Obama offered help.  He said he wants to change existing law so the federal government can give states aid for poor students.   But he said the money would come with strings attached.

"We will ask all states to put in place a plan to adopt and certify standards that are college and career-ready in reading and math," he said.   

The president said he wants a dialogue with states on education reform.  He said he also wants to hear ideas from the governors on improving the nation's health-care system to improve access and affordability.

Just moments before he opened the meeting with the governors, the White House released a new set of proposals for health-care reform.

With reform efforts effectively stalled in the Senate, Mr. Obama has invited Congressional leaders from both major political parties to a meeting Thursday to try to get the process moving again.  

Republican lawmakers appear skeptical, but Republican governors say they are sharing ideas with their Democratic counterparts on the state level.

"We hope as this debate goes forward we will have a chance to meet with you and your administration and the Congressional ideas that work that states can implement, so we can all work together," said Republican Jim Douglas of Vermont, Chairman of the National Governors Association.  

Douglas said governors are approaching the issue in a bipartisan way.  He said they all want to improve the health and well-being of their constituents.

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