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New Republican Governors Promise After Elections Cuts Are `Going to Hurt'

The nation’s Republican governors and governors-to-be met for the first time since the Nov. 2 election that gave their party control of 29 statehouses, promising to address budget deficits by chopping the size of government.

“Why do you exist?” Pennsylvania Governor-elect Tom Corbett said that he would ask every state agency when he spoke yesterday at the Republican Governors Association meeting in San Diego. New Mexico Governor-elect Susana Martinez said she would reduce the public payroll by 5 percent through attrition to deal with a deficit she said recently nearly doubled to $452 million on $5.6 billion in revenue next year.

Democrats held 26 governorships before the election. The Republican victories increased the party’s influence before the 2012 presidential election and gave it more sway over the redrawing of congressional districts and in policies of states trying to recover from the recession.

South Carolina Governor-elect Nikki Haley, a state representative, said she beat candidates with more name recognition by telling voters that she would reduce the size of government.

“We need to be honest and say, ‘This is going to hurt,’” said Haley, when asked how she will explain cuts. “We are heading into a terrible budget year.”

Thirty-nine states have projected budget gaps that total $112 billion for fiscal 2012, according to the nonpartisan Center on Budget Policy and Priorities. Once all states have prepared estimates, the deficits are likely to be a collective $140 billion, the center says.

Currying Favor

The governors appeared on a panel called the “The New Face of the GOP” on the first day of the two-day meeting. Nearly 900 people, including corporate lobbyists, attended this year’s event, up from 550 last year.

Brian Sandoval, a former federal judge who was the first person in Nevada history to defeat a sitting governor in a primary, said he will address inefficiencies in education spending by allowing parents to choose public schools, implementing merit pay for teachers who boost test scores and lengthening the time required for teachers to get tenure from the current one year.

Ohio Governor-elect John Kasich, who was chairman of the House budget committee when the U.S had a budget surplus in the 1990s, said he was launching a website called FixOhioNow.com to solicit money-saving ideas.

Mary Fallin, the newly elected governor of Oklahoma, said during a news conference that Republicans need to concentrate on “restoring the economy,” while balancing budgets without raising taxes.

“We have a two-year time window, basically until the 2012 elections, to prove ourselves, if we’re going to do what we talked about doing,” Fallin said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Christopher Palmeri in San Diego at cpalmeri1@bloomberg.net. Tim Jones in San Diego at tjones58@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net

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