- The Washington Times - Monday, February 25, 2002

The ebullient energy coursing through last night's National Governors Association dinner couldn't overshadow dwindling state coffers and a war against terrorism still in progress.
Last night's White House dinner for the nation's governors managed to strike a positive note amid such grim talk.
President Bush, the affair's dutiful host, raised a glass to the governors to whose ranks he once belonged praising their part in the fight against terrorism.
"The governors have taken the [terrorist] threats seriously … and our nation is grateful," he said, singling out New York Gov. George E. Pataki for his "calm demeanor" after the attacks. "Our governors displayed leadership at a time when America demanded it."
Michigan Gov. John Engler, the Republican chairman of the association, in his toast credited Mr. Bush for tapping the talents of four former governors to guide him through the unconventional war.
"I can't think of a president that relied so much on the expertise of former governors," Mr. Engler said, referring to Cabinet members John Ashcroft, Christie Whitman, Tom Ridge and Tommy G. Thompson.
After the toasts, the evening took on a festive mood. The assembled governors dined on roasted rack of lamb, blue crab cakes and baked coconut custard cake, all served on Reagan china and vermeil owls filled with flaming parrot yellow and red tulips.
Tony-award winning singer Bernadette Peters provided her own brand of dessert, belting out several numbers from the Rodgers and Hammerstein songbook including "Some Enchanted Evening."
Several governors said they were facing budget problems. And though the evening was largely free of partisanship, Maryland's Democratic governor found occasion to suggest that the Republican president's policies were to blame for his state's financial crunch.
"The tax cuts enacted have impacted state budgets particularly hard," said Gov. Parris N. Glendening, escorting new bride Jennifer Crawford.
The rising number of Medicaid recipients adds to the states' fiscal woes. "There isn't a state here that isn't hard-pressed," Mr. Glendening said.
Illinois Gov. George H. Ryan complained that his state's Medicaid situation demanded attention.
"We need to get on an equal basis with a lot of the other states," the Republican governor said.
He sounded slightly more sanguine on matters of homeland security.
"I'm not sure how you predict that, you just be prepared," the Illinois Republican said, before adding, "We are."
Pennsylvania Gov. Mark Schweiker gave his predecessor, Homeland Security Director Mr. Ridge, an "A-plus" for his work since taking on the newly created position.
"It's a nice fit for Tom," the Republican governor said of Mr. Ridge's new role.
Another freshly minted governor, Virginia Democrat Mark R. Warner, appeared relieved that Washington's party bickering took the weekend off.
"There has been no evidence of partisanship, just as in our administration," said Mr. Warner, unaware of Mr. Glendening's jab at the president. "We're trying to change the tone."
Few would argue Miss Peters' tones needed any tinkering. The singer, her auburn curls framing a youthful visage, said the evening's politically charged crowd proved an interesting audience.
"I've performed for the Italian president," she said of her previous White House experience, "But I hear this is a rowdier crowd."

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