- The Washington Times - Monday, July 20, 2009

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) | Many of the nation’s governors said Sunday that they oppose Congress forcing states to pick up extra expenses, from health care to national security, saying state budgets are already strained by the recession.

Governors meet twice yearly under the auspices of the National Governors Association to seek bipartisan consensus on issues affecting their states, including federal mandates for shared programs, such as the Medicaid health insurance program for the needy. Only 25 governors attended the summer meeting over the weekend as some stayed home to tackle budgets.

Several governors joined Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in calling on Congress to revise requirements by this fall for secure driver’s licenses that are intended to help boost national security. The governors said federal mandates for the licenses are too expensive, and 13 states have voted not to participate in the Real ID Act passed after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“Security standards are only useful if people are willing and able to use them,” said Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican.

Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses would have layers of security to prevent forgery, such as verification of birth certificates, Social Security numbers and immigration status.

The Senate Homeland Security Committee last week started working on a revised and less expensive plan called Pass ID, supported by the governors association. Fulfilling the requirements of Real ID would cost states about $4 billion, and Ms. Napolitano said the cost of implementing Pass ID would be about $2 billion.

“Real ID, from a state perspective, was unreal,” said Ms. Napolitano, a former Arizona governor.

Pass ID would be less expensive for states to implement and would be less stringent, though Ms. Napolitano said it would still help bolster national security. For example, Real ID would require that birth certificates be confirmed with the agency that issued the documents, while Pass ID would not.

During discussions about health care, several governors said they worry federal legislation could push billions of dollars in new expenses on their states for Medicaid, the government health insurance program for the needy.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican, said he thinks some officials have “noble goals” of expanding coverage to more people who are currently uninsured. But he said Congress should not pass legislation that forces states to pick up extra expenses.

“If we’re asked to pick up on state increased costs in health care, it’s going to take away from … environment, transportation, education, public safety — all the other things that we as states do,” Mr. Perdue said.

Also Sunday, Ms. Napolitano told governors to prepare in case there is a resurgence of swine flu in the nation this fall.

She said state leaders should talk to education officials about preventing the disease’s spread among children and being ready to offer continued learning at home if schools are forced to temporarily close.

President Obama has said U.S. swine flu vaccinations could begin in October with children among the first to receive them.

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