[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1995, Book I)]
[January 30, 1995]
[Pages 112-114]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks to the National Governors' Association
January 30, 1995

    Good morning. First, I want to welcome you back to the White House. 
For those of you who were here last night, Hillary and I enjoyed having 
you; it was a great dinner and we enjoyed the conversation and the 
entertainment and the fellowship.
    There are two or three things I'd like to speak about this morning 
before turning the microphone over to Governor Dean and Governor 
Thompson and the Vice President. First, let me thank the executive 
committee for its vote yesterday on our stabilization measure for 

[[Page 113]]

And let me urge the NGA as a whole to support that executive committee 
    The United States has a lot at stake in Mexico. We have hundreds of 
thousands of jobs that are tied to the success of the Mexican economy. 
It is now our third largest trading partner--several billions of dollars 
a year. Our future cooperation and our ability to manage some very 
significant immigration problems could be affected by what is going on 
there, and the efforts that we are making to cooperate on the drug issue 
could obviously be affected by what is going on there.
    I want to emphasize that the stabilization initiative is not a gift, 
not a loan, not a bailout; it is a loan guarantee. We are cosigning a 
note. We'll have good collateral. We're doing it because it's in the 
interest of the United States. I worked on it extensively this weekend, 
and I realize that it's not politically popular back home, it's a rather 
complex issue, but it is clearly in the interest of American workers, 
American businesses, and the United States as a whole. So I thank the 
executive committee for your vote, and I hope the NGA as a whole will 
follow the recommendation of the executive committee.
    The second thing I'd like to talk about is, very briefly, is the 
commitment that I made 2 years ago to have a better, stronger 
partnership with the States, to regulate less, to empower more, to try 
to push more responsibilities down to the State and local level. The 
Vice President will say a little more about that, and then tomorrow at 
the NGA I'll have a chance to speak in greater detail.
    But we have worked not simply to reduce the size of the Federal 
Government, although we have by over 100,000 already; not just to reduce 
the burden of regulation, although we have in banking and intrastate 
trucking and a number of other areas; not just to reduce the cost, 
although we did--last year was the first time in 25 years when the 
Congress voted to reduce both domestic and defense spending, obviously 
except for Social Security and the health care programs--but also to try 
to move more responsibility to the States.
    In the last 2 years, our administration, for example, granted more 
waivers in the area of health care and welfare reform than in the 
previous 12 years combined. And we want to do more of that. We also have 
worked very hard to try to help work through problems that have existed 
in the past with specific governmental agencies, and we want to do more 
of that. And as I said, the Vice President will have more to say about 
    We are strongly supporting the move to get unfunded mandates 
legislation passed in the Congress and are encouraged by the work that 
was done in the United States Senate where, as I remember, the bill 
passed 86-10 last week, after a really open and honest discussion of all 
appropriate amendments. The legislation is now moving through the House. 
I think there are about 100 amendments pending, but I think they will 
move through it in a fairly expeditious way, just as the Senate did.
    With regard to the balanced budget amendment, it has passed the 
House; it is now in the Senate. I will say again what I've said all 
along here. It seems to me that the State legislators, the people, and 
the Governors have a right to know what is entailed in the time line if 
the effort is made. And I would hope that we would continue to take that 
right-to-know position. You have a right to know what happens. You have 
a right to know what happens if we protect Social Security. You have a 
right to know what happens if we protect Social Security and Medicare. 
You have a right to know what happens in the details of this.
    We have cut $600 billion-plus off this deficit. I am going to give a 
budget in early February to the Congress which will take over $140 
billion more in cuts. We have eliminated 100 programs; we have cut 
hundreds and hundreds of others. I want to keep bringing this deficit 
down, but I think we ought to all go into a change in the fundamental 
document of this country with our eyes wide open and knowing what the 
consequences are.
    The third thing I'd like to talk about, briefly, is welfare reform. 
For those of you who were present at the Saturday meeting, I want to 
thank you again for being there. It reminded me very much of the process 
that we went through in 1987 and 1988 when we had a Republican President 
and a Democratic Congress and a bipartisan group of Governors. And we 
worked in '87 and '88 toward the passage of the Family Support Act.
    I thought it worked then; I think it will work now, if we all work 
in good faith. We agreed that welfare has to be reformed, that the most 
important thing is to change it from a system which fosters dependence 
to one that fosters

[[Page 114]]

work and independence, that we ought to support education where it is 
needed, and that we ought to support responsible parenting.

    We agreed that as we try to put more of the operational decisions 
back to the State and local level, there must be some strong national 
steps taken on child support enforcement because so many of those orders 
are multistate in their impact and because we are doing such a bad job 
as a country now in collecting child support which should properly be 
paid to children.

    We agreed that there must be more State and local flexibility; we 
agreed that there ought to be an effort to reduce teen pregnancy and 
out-of-wedlock pregnancy generally. Governor Carper gave a very moving 
presentation of what is going on in Delaware, and as you know, I 
announced in my State of the Union that we would make a national effort 
on this which we'll have more to say about in the next few days.

    We did not reach final agreement on the questions of how the 
partnership should be structured, what the implications of a block grant 
would be, and what, in specific terms, the national interest is in 
preserving the welfare of the children of this country. I have to say 
that I basically am in favor, as I always have been, of maximum 
flexibility for the States. I was a strong supporter of the community 
development block grant program, for example, when I served as a 
Governor. But we do have a national interest in protecting the welfare 
and the possibilities of our children.

    In 1985, for the very first time in our history, at least since 
we've been keeping such statistics, the elderly became less poor than 
the rest of the population because of the cost-of-living adjustments and 
Social Security, because of supplemental security income, because of 
Medicare. That is something I think we're all proud of.

    The flip side of that is that the poverty population itself has 
stayed the same, or has actually increased, and almost all the poor now 
are little children and their not very well educated parents, by and 
large. So we do have a national interest in the welfare of these 
children and in changing the welfare system so that it promotes 
responsibility and lifts people up without punishing children who were 
not the cause of the problems that they face in life. That, it seems to 
me, is the dividing line that we have to be animated by as we try to 
forge this new partnership. I'm excited about it; I think we can do it.

    We must pass welfare reform this year, and it has got to be real, 
meaningful, different, and better and broader than anything we've ever 
done before. And it ought to give you a great deal of flexibility out 
of--if nothing else, out of a sense of sheer simple humility that no one 
has all the answers to deal with these difficult riddles that threaten 
the stability of our families and the future of our kids.

    So I am encouraged by where we are. I thank you again for the 
executive committee resolution on Mexico. We are going to work with you 
to further the partnership between the States and the Federal 
Government. And we must pass welfare reform this year, but it ought to 
be the right kind with the right results.

Note: The President spoke at 9:58 a.m. in the East Room at the White 
House. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Tommy G. Thompson of