Nov. 20 (Bloomberg) -- The record crop of 29 new U.S. governors may lead to more one-term executives as states slash spending and cut programs to balance recession-ravaged budgets, said Maine Governor-elect Paul LePage.
“We’re going through some tough times,” LePage, a Republican who will take over from Democrat John Baldacci, said in an interview at a seminar for new office-holders held by the National Governors Association in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “The good governors are going to make some tough decisions and move on; if they are re-elected, fine. If not, they did what they were asked to do and they should be proud of themselves.”
Republicans, capitalizing on economic discontent with the nation’s jobless rate holding above 9 percent, took over a majority of governorships in the Nov. 2 elections, when 37 of the seats were up for grabs. Republicans will hold 29 of the offices, regaining the dominance they lost four years ago. The last time an incoming class rivaled this year’s was in 1920, when there were 27 new entrants, said Washington Governor Christine Gregoire.
Transitioning from the campaign to governing took center stage at the governors’ summit, at the Broadmoor resort in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. Fourteen current office-holders and 16 newcomers discussed issues from budgeting to assembling cabinets.
The new leaders will take over as states across the U.S. are forced to consider cuts to programs such as education, pensions and health care to balance budgets after an increase in joblessness and declines in tax collections.
“They don’t have the luxury of borrowing or making new money,” Gregoire, a second-term Democrat who chairs the governors group, said at a press conference. “We have to balance budgets and make tough decisions.
States’ budget deficits will likely total $140 billion in fiscal 2012, the Washington-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said in a report last month. An 18-month recession that was declared over in June 2009 shrunk state tax collections by 8.4 percent in fiscal 2009 and 3.1 percent in fiscal 2010, it said.
Scott Walker, the Republican Governor-elect of Wisconsin, said he and peers across the country must look at the long-term financial picture as they transition from campaigning to being their state’s chief executive. He said he’s aware that may mean making choices that are unpopular with voters.
“When times are tough I want the ball, I want to be the one in charge and I want to help get the state back on track,” Walker told reporters at the seminar. “They didn’t elect us to be popular, they elected us to get things done.”
Ray Scheppach, executive director of the governors’ group, said the unprecedented turnover isn’t ideal, given that most organizations view a 10 percent flip in personnel as a potential hindrance.
“We came here to do the best job we could, irrespective of polls and irrespective of elections,” Gregoire said.
--Editors: Mark Tannenbaum, Sylvia Wier
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