[Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents Volume 31, Number 5 (Monday, February 6, 1995)]
[Pages 151-155]
[Online from the Government Printing Office, www.gpo.gov]

Remarks to the National Governors' Association Conference

January 31, 1995

    Thank you very much, Governor Dean, Governor Thompson, fellow 
Governors and ladies and gentlemen. It's a pleasure for me to be back 
here. I have enjoyed our visits in this meeting. I was delighted to have 
you at the White House on Sunday evening, and I have very, very much 
enjoyed our discussion yesterday, our discussions of welfare reform and 
a whole range of other issues.
    Last year, you may remember when I was here, Governor Carroll 
Campbell and I both lost our voices before our talks, making 
collectively millions of people in both parties happy. [Laughter] 
Unfortunately for you, I am fully recovered this year, and I would like 
to begin, if I might, by thanking you for your vote just a few moments 
ago on the Mexico stabilization package. I want to underline the 
critical nature of the financial problem in Mexico. All of you 
understand it, and I applaud your vote across party and especially 
across regional lines, because a number of you are not in the moment as 
directly affected as others are.
    This crisis poses, however, great risks to our workers, to our 
economy, and to the global economy, and it poses these risks now. We 
must act now. It has gotten worse day by day since I asked for 
legislative action about 2 weeks ago. Rather than face further delay, I 
met with the congressional leadership this morning and told them that I 
will act under my executive authority, and I have asked for their full 
support. We cannot risk further delay, and I tell you today, frankly, 
that your strong support is very, very helpful and very welcome.
    The situation in Mexico continues to worsen. But the leadership 
advised me that while they believe Congress will--or at least, might 
well eventually act, it will not do so immediately. And therefore, it 
will not do so in time. Because Congress cannot act now, I have worked 
with other countries to prepare a new package. As proposed now, it will 
consist of a $20-billion share from the United States Exchange 
Stabilization Fund, which we can authorize by executive action without a 
new act of Congress; $17.5 billion from the International Monetary Fund; 
and in addition to that, there will be a short-term lending facility of 
$10 billion from the Bank of International Settlements. That means that 
in the aggregate, we will be able to have an action that is potentially 
even more aggressive than the $40 billion one I originally proposed, 
with more of the load being taken by international institutions and our 
trading partners around the world which I applaud, but with a 
significant part of the burden still being borne by the United States.
    This is in the interest of America, contrary to what some have said, 
not because there are large financial interests at stake but because 
there are thousands of jobs, billions of dollars of American exports at 
stake, the potential of an even more serious illegal immigration 
problem, the spread of financial in- 

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stability to other countries in our hemisphere and indeed to other 
developing countries throughout the world, and the potential of a more 
serious narcotics trafficking problem. All these things are at stake in 
the Mexican crisis, and therefore, I will act to protect our interests. 
I have asked the bipartisan leadership of Congress to support these 
actions, and I hope and believe they will at some later point today.
    The risks of inaction are greater than the risks of decisive action. 
Do I know for sure that this action will solve all the problems? I do 
not. Do I believe it will? I do. Am I virtually certain that if we do 
nothing, it will get much, much worse in a hurry? I am. This is the 
right thing to do. You have understood it, and I thank you very, very 
much for your vote a few moments ago.
    Since our first meeting 2 years ago, we have enjoyed unprecedented 
cooperation, which have included 7 major waivers in the health care 
reform area and 24 in the welfare reform area, a partnership and a 
successful fight for the crime bill last year which, as you know, 
reduces the Federal Government and gives all the money back to State and 
local communities to fight crime at the grassroots level. We have had 
innovative and more comprehensive agreements with the States of West 
Virginia and Indiana in the area of children and families and the 
remarkable agreement that we signed recently with the State of Oregon 
and seven of our Cabinet Secretaries, ending Federal micromanagement 
across a whole range of areas in return for the statement by the State 
of Oregon of clear goals and performance measures for the future.
    This is the kind of thing that we need to be doing more of. It is 
the kind of thing that I believe we are in the process of doing on 
welfare reform. I was informed of the Speaker's remarks just a few 
moments before I came here, and I applaud them and I think we have a 
real chance now to have a partnership between the White House and the 
Congress, the Governors and others who care deeply about this issue.
    Our next goal must be to dramatically restructure the relationship 
between the Federal Government and the States, to create a stronger 
partnership on behalf of our people that goes to the heart of what I 
have called the New Covenant of opportunity and responsibility. I 
believe the Federal Government's job is to expand opportunity and shrink 
bureaucracy. And therefore, I think it is clearly the thing for us to do 
to try to shift more responsibility to the States, to the localities, 
and where appropriate to the private sector and therefore give you the 
opportunity to solve problems, working with your people, that have 
eluded all of us for too long.
    The system we inherited was based, fundamentally, on a kind of a 
benign distrust, from an era when, let's face it, in decades past, 
States might not have always done what they should have done to protect 
their citizens. As a Southerner, I can tell you that I don't know what 
we'd have done if the Federal Government hadn't been willing to take 
some of the actions that it took in civil rights and in some other areas 
to help poor children in my State and others.
    So we cannot and we need not condemn the past to say that the whole 
nature and character of State government, the expertise that's there, 
the knowledge that's there, the connections that are there with 
volunteer groups, with community groups, with the nonprofit groups, is 
totally different than it used to be. And the nature of the work to be 
done and the problems to be solved are different than they used to be. 
Therefore, the system we have inherited needs a searching re-
examination, and where it is yesterday's Government and not tomorrow's, 
it ought to be changed.
    We have tackled this problem with energy and with some success. We 
have done it with real support from the Cabinet and some opposition from 
some within the bureaucracy that have been there through Republican and 
Democratic administrations alike and some in our Congress who have 
questions about what we are doing.
    But I have spent too many years of my life around this table to have 
forgotten what I learned there. I think I came to this office with a 
profound understanding of the challenges that you have faced in working 
with the Federal Government. To build on that understanding is part of 
the reinventing Government initiative. The Vice President, who came with 
me here today for this announcement because he's worked so hard to make

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it possible, has talked literally to thousands of State and local 
government workers, and they have been among the most helpful in shaping 
our reinvention blueprint.
    The message is loud and clear: They want us to stop the 
micromanagement, trust them to do their jobs, hold them accountable for 
results where Federal money and national interests are involved. That's 
why we wish to create a new Federal Government and a new partnership, 
based on trust and accountability. You know better than anyone that a 
great deal of what our National Government does is already carried out 
by States, by counties, by cities. That's why we must change the 
relationship and trust them more. I believe we should ship 
decisionmaking, responsibility, and resources from bureaucracies in 
Washington to communities, to States, and where we can, directly to 
    Part of my job is to keep pushing the focus of the National 
Government back to grassroots America, where we can solve so many of our 
problems more effectively. We have begun that work, first by cutting the 
size of the Federal Government. We have already cut over a quarter of a 
trillion dollars in spending, more than 300 domestic programs, more than 
100,000 positions from the Federal bureaucracy. Those cuts will 
ultimately total, if no more laws or budgets are passed, more than 
270,000, making, when the process is finished, your Federal Government 
the smallest it has been since the Kennedy administration.
    But cutting Government isn't enough. We also have to make it work 
better, and we've done that too, in many ways. We streamlined the 
Agriculture Department, closing 1,200 field offices. We've moved FEMA 
from being a disaster to helping people in disasters. The Department of 
Transportation worked with private businesses and helped to rebuild 
southern California's fractured freeways in record time and under 
budget, also with a partnership from the State, by changing the laws and 
the procedures and making it work. We've cut an SBA loan form from an 
inch thick to a single page. We've cut the time it takes to get an FHA 
loan endorsement from 4 to 6 weeks to 3 to 5 days. We've reformed the 
procurement system of the Government so that Governments can buy the way 
businesses do, putting an end to the Vice President's opportunity to go 
on the Letterman show and break $10 ashtrays that ought to cost a dollar 
and a half. [Laughter] We have reformed the college loan system. The 
direct loan program will literally save the taxpayers billions of 
dollars, lower interest rates and fees, and improve repayment schedules 
for students, and lower paperwork, bureaucratic time for our 
institutions of higher education.
    Much of this work is simple common sense. The Bureau of Reclamation 
used to require 20 people to sign off on building special fish ladders 
in northern California, taking 3\1/2\ years. The fish were dead by then. 
But at least the ladder was approved. Well, we removed 18 approval 
layers and cut the time down to 6 months, in time for the fish to spawn, 
to their great relief. [Laughter] I say this to make the point that a 
lot of this is common sense and an enormous amount of this still remains 
to be done.
    I suppose I have gotten more comments from you in these last 2 days, 
pro and con, about the process of Federal regulation than anything else. 
Some of you have said, ``Well, I'm getting better cooperation from the 
EPA than ever before; thank you very much.'' Others have said, ``What 
the policy is sounds good, but there's nothing happening in our State to 
make it better.'' And we have a long way to go, but we can do this. And 
we ought to do it not simply with general rhetoric but also taking these 
issues one by one by one, until we make it right.
    I've asked the Vice President in phase two of his review to continue 
to shrink Federal departments, and we're making sure that the remaining 
Government will be more economical, more entrepreneurial, less 
bureaucratic, and less dictatorial.
    A year ago I signed an Executive order to encourage creative 
partnerships with the private sector in the ownership, financing, and 
construction of infrastructure, responding to your insistence that you 
needed the same kind of flexibility the private sector has when you 
raise funds for major infrastructure projects. Today I'm happy to say 
that Secretary Pena is announcing a series of 35 new infrastructure 
projects in 21 States that will mobilize almost $2 billion in investment 

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ital to build roads, bridges, and other infrastructure, relying on trust 
and accountability, not rules and bureaucracy.
    Tens of thousands of new jobs will be created this year, not by 
rocket science but by simply adopting the financing techniques the 
private sector uses all the time. We wouldn't have any of these projects 
if we followed the old rules and allowed them to get in the way of 
innovation. In the budget I'm submitting to Congress I will propose 
turning this approach into national policy by building performance 
partnerships with State and local governments. We want to consolidate 
categorical funding and call on you to take responsibility for meeting 
the performance standards. Trust and accountability are the foundation 
of these new partnerships. We have to trust you, our partners, to make 
the right choices in spending public funds. And even though you'll have 
more flexibility to solve your problems, you must be held accountable 
for how you spend the Federal money.
    I'm excited because this approach gives us a new opportunity to work 
together, to move forward. On Saturday, Governor Engler captivated the 
Nation by rolling out a list of 335 programs on parchment, sacred 
programs he wanted to put in the block grant, that he could write on a 
piece of notepaper. He didn't know it, but next week, we want to 
announce plans that we've worked on for months to consolidate 271 
programs into 27 performance partnerships. And a lot of those were on 
Governor Engler's list. I'd like to help him cut it shorter. [Applause] 
Thank you.
    One of those I've already announced is the new performance 
partnership for education and job training, part of our middle class 
bill of rights. We propose to collapse 70 separate programs to make them 
more efficient and effective, a GI bill for America's workers who need 
new skills to meet the demands of changing times. State and local 
governments will have broad flexibility to help meet those needs, but we 
propose not just to give this money back to State training programs but 
instead to let the workers themselves get a voucher and choose where 
they want to go. Almost every American is now within driving distance of 
a community college or some other kind of high training program with a 
proven rate of success far better than anything we need to design. So we 
ought to put more power not only back to the local level but also 
directly into the hands of citizens for the purposes that are plainly in 
the national interest.
    In public health, we want to consolidate 108 programs into 16 
performance partnerships, to abolish a dozen environmental grants and 
give you more power to achieve environmental goals. And I guess in 
parenthesis, I thank Governor Carper for his repeated lectures to me on 
that subject, citing the Delaware example. We want to continue to 
combine the 60 HUD programs into 3. The Federal Government has worked in 
one way for decades. Now it is time to try a new way, a way that is 
proven in its performance in the private sector. It's time for these and 
other changes, and many of them are drawn directly from your own 
experience in your own laboratories of democracy.
    When our country was founded, the Founders rejected Government based 
on central control and distrust of people. Our Constitution provides a 
few profound guiding principles. It puts deep trust in the American 
people to use their common sense to create a shared vision, not a 
centralized vision, and to give life to those ideals. We have to take 
advantage of this rare moment to renew that idea, to reshape the 
relationship between the National Government and the States. The 
American people have voted twice in the last two elections for dramatic 
change in the way our country works. They want more for their money: 
better schools, safer streets, better roads, clean environment. But they 
want a greater say in how this work is done, and they don't want the 
Federal Government to do what can better be done by private citizens 
themselves or by government that is closer to them.
    They also have a deep feeling about our national commitment and our 
national responsibilities and our national interest, the things like the 
welfare of our children, the future of our economy, our obligations to 
our seniors. They know that we can meet these national obligations and 
pursue our national interest with a dramatic devolution of power and 
responsibility and opportunity to the

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State governments of this land. I look forward to making all this happen 
with you.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:15 a.m. at the J.W. Marriot Hotel. In 
his remarks, he referred to Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont, Gov. Tommy G. 
Thompson of Wisconsin, Gov. Carroll W. Campbell of South Carolina, Gov. 
John Engler of Michigan, and Gov. Tom Carper of Delaware.