President Obama, 2013 NGA Winter Meeting Follow-Up

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC 20201

Dear Mr. President:

On behalf of the nation’s governors, thank you for hosting the National Governors Association over the weekend and meeting with us Monday to discuss issues critical to states and our country. We appreciate your candor and willingness to engage in an active dialogue about how we can make our unique system of federalism work even better.

Several of the issues governors raised came directly from our discussions over the weekend. First, many of our colleagues are committed to passing the Marketplace Fairness Acts (S.336/H.R.684) pending in the Senate and the House. This important legislation would allow states to collect billions in taxes that are owed and help level the playing field for all retailers to ensure fair competition and create jobs. The additional revenue will allow many states to fund shared priorities and mitigate some of the reductions seen in public sector employment. We appreciate your support for the legislation as it makes its way through Congress.

Second, governors implore you to restore the 15 percent WIA set-aside as part of your FY 2014 budget. These flexible funds allow us to innovate and improve workforce programs to get our citizens back to work or train them for better jobs and careers. We have many cases in which the ability to innovate within states has resulted in more employment. Congress stands ready to restore the 15 percent set-aside, and we would like your support.

Third, while your administration has worked to improve government operations, we would like to establish a mechanism for institutionalizing input from the states to assist in redesigning the way services are delivered, improving outcomes for our citizens and reducing costs. This would ensure coordination of effort between state and local governments and our federal partners.

Finally, we urge you to work together with Congress to avoid the March 1 sequester by implementing thoughtful solutions both to reduce the deficit and to promote economic growth. Sequestration is a blunt instrument for a complex but solvable problem. It was not designed to be implemented, but rather was intended to promote decisions that put our nation on a path to fiscal sustainability in an economically sound and programmatically responsible manner.

The sequestration cuts do not accomplish this goal and should be replaced with a thoughtful approach that adheres to four principles on which the governors agree:

  • Federal reforms should be designed to produce savings for both the federal government and states;
  • Deficit reduction should not be accomplished by shifting costs to states or imposing unfunded mandates;
  • States should be given increased flexibility to create efficiencies and achieve results; and
  • Congress should not impose maintenance of effort provisions on states as a condition of funding.

Sequester is often described as an “across the board cut,” but it will have harmful and very uneven effects on states.

We stand ready to work with you and Congress to put the nation back on a firm financial footing.


Governor Jack Markell

Governor Mary Fallin