Governors are becoming prominent voices in the fight to cut the federal deficit, warning that Capitol Hill's latest budget stalemate is causing fresh uncertainty that threatens economic progress.
State leaders attending the annual meeting of the National Governors Association joined ranks Friday to condemn the massive automatic spending cuts that are set to begin March 1.
The Obama administration said failure to avert the cuts could lead to widespread flight delays, shuttered airports, off-limit seashores and the furloughing of hundreds of thousands employees.
"It is not helpful when Congress and the president and the administration have such partisan gridlock," said Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican and former member of Congress. "Because their gridlock has real repercussions on the families ... it has real repercussions on our states and our economies."
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, said the nation "cannot afford to put at risk jobs and the recovery."
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At their weekend meetings, governors planned to focus on jobs and the economy, gun control and the new health care law.
Some Republican governors have blocked the use of Medicaid to expand health insurance coverage for millions of the uninsured. Others have joined Democrats in a wholesale expansion as the law allows. For many governors, there's a pervasive sense of frustration with Washington.
"My feeling is I can't help what's going on in Washington," Gov. Terry Branstad, R-Iowa, said in an interview Saturday. "I can't help the fact that there's no leadership here and it's all politics as usual and gridlock. But I can do something about the way we do things in the state of Iowa."
No issue carries the same level of urgency as the budget impasse.
Congressional leaders have indicated a willingness to let the cuts take effect and stay in place for weeks, if not much longer.
The cuts would trim $85 billion in domestic and defense spending, leading to furloughs for hundreds of thousands of workers at the Transportation Department, Defense Department and elsewhere.
Obama has stepped up efforts to tell the public about the negative impact, and tried to pressure Republicans who oppose his approach of targeted savings and tax increases to tackle deficits.
Republicans responded sharply to the president's fresh demand to include higher taxes as part of a compromise.
"Spending is the problem, spending must be the focus," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said "there won't be any easy off-ramps on this one. The days of 11th hour negotiations are over."
But governors aren't yet resigned to the worst-case scenario.
"I think there should be limited government, but I don't like random changes. If you look at my budget, I didn't do across the board cuts," said Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican. "I think you should be more strategic."
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