Governors offer bipartisan disdain for D.C. dysfunction

After a year of Washington politics defined more by gridlock than by progress, the nation's governors arrived in D.C. this weekend for their annual conference with a timely message for the federal government: Get it together.

In a news conference Saturday to kick off the annual gathering of the National Governors Association (NGA), a bipartisan group of state executives touted their record of cooperative problem-solving, contrasting that leadership with the dysfunction gripping the nation's capital.

"We don't have the luxury of inaction as we see many times here in Washington, D.C.," NGA Chairman Gov. Mary Fallin, R-Okla., said. "Governors are expected to solve problems."

"While Washington remains in gridlock," she added, "we find that our governors are doing their part to work together, in collaboration, to share best practices on how we can grow our economy."

Several governors scolded Washington for its seemingly endless fiscal warfare, saying the fiscal cliff crisis, the government shutdown and the fights over the debt limit dealt needless blows to the economy.

"The fiscal cliff and the government shutdown were not good outcomes," said Gov. Gary Herbert, R-Utah.

Gov. Mike Beebe, D-Ark., said the shutdown and other "draconian action[s]" weren't "particularly well thought out."

Beebe also said the idea that both parties in Washington can't come together on budget policy is "bunk," pointing to the late 1990s, when then-President Clinton negotiated a balanced budget with a Republican Congress.

Several governors emphasized the importance of what they called "flexible federalism," arguing that their jobs would be a lot easier if the federal government provided them with greater freedom of movement.

Greater flexibility, Fallin said, would encourage policy innovation and experimentation that could eventually deliver better results for less money.

Fallin also warned D.C. not to balance the budget on the back of state governments, saying that deficit reduction "should not be accomplished by shifting those costs down to the states."