President Barack Obama met with a group of state governors from his Democratic Party on Friday, to discuss ways to boost the U.S. economy and deal with state budget crises. The governors said they did not talk about the ongoing budget furor in the north central state of Wisconsin.
President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden hosted the Democratic governors, as their Republican counterparts prepared to join them for this weekend’s annual meeting of the National Governors Association.
This year’s gathering of the leaders of the 50 states could be more contentious than usual.
Obama has blasted efforts by Wisconsin’s Republican governor to cut the state budget by limiting state workers’ rights to collective bargaining as an "assault" on labor unions.
And Republican governors and state legislators have been trying to block some or all of Obama’s health care reform law from taking effect.
After Friday’s meeting, Democratic Governor Jack Markell, of the Eastern state of Delaware, said the president and the governors concentrated on ways to reduce unemployment.
"I can tell you, in my conversations back at home, I have not had a single business person say to me that they want the federal government refighting the fights of the last two years about health care," said Markell. "What they want us focused on is, ‘What are we going to do to create jobs?"
The Democratic governors said Obama had asked them to meet with business leaders in their states before coming to the White House, and relay their suggestions to him.
Friday’s meeting took place as the Wisconsin state assembly considered legislation to reduce the collective bargaining rights of public employees. The legislation, proposed by Republican Governor Scott Walker, has led to more than a week of demonstrations in the state capital, Madison. Similar controversies are brewing in other central states.
At the White House, Martin O’Malley, of the Eastern state of Maryland, said he and his fellow Democratic governors ignored the situation in Wisconsin when meeting with the president. "I think most of us see that as a distraction, really, from the most important work that we can do, which is creating jobs."
White House spokesman Jay Carney addressed the state budget crises at Friday’s press briefing, saying only that bipartisan cooperation is vital.
"Everybody needs to tighten their belts. Everybody needs to sacrifice and work together to bring state budgets into balance, to bring stability to the fiscal situations in the states, much as we need to work together at the federal level."
Obama will host all the governors at a formal dinner Sunday night, and will meet with them on Monday.