Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Is This as Good as It Gets? for Many State Governors, This May Be Best of Times

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Is This as Good as It Gets? for Many State Governors, This May Be Best of Times

Article excerpt

By President Clinton's proud reckoning last week in his State of the Union Message, these are good times in America. But by the reckoning of most of the nation's governors, that was understatement. In a series of state of the state addresses that were striking for their relentlessly upbeat and optimistic tone -- even discounting that 1998 is a re-election year for many governors -- the chief executives of some 40 states painted a picture of a nation that not only is enjoying good times but in many cases, as they see it, is enjoying the best times ever.

Thanks mainly to the nation's booming economy, governors who a few years ago were bemoaning intractable problems, shortages of money and the need for sacrifice, now crow about spending new cash surpluses to solve old problems, about cutting rather than raising taxes and about giving out instead of rationing government goodies. But most of all, the state of the state speeches of 1998, based on a review of most of those delivered thus far, were speeches about good times on a roll like seldom before. As Gov. Terry Branstad, R-Iowa, whose 16 years in office make him the nation's senior governor, put it in his Jan. 13 address: "We've come a long way. Today we stand stronger and taller than ever before. The condition of our state is as good as we've ever had it." Then Branstad, who is not running for re-election, offered some persuasive proof. "Consider just a few facts," he said, beginning a litany that could have applied as easily to New York or Texas or California as to heartland Iowa. "In 1997," he went on, "unemployment fell to the lowest level in history, and the number of working Iowans rose to the highest level. The number of jobs created by new businesses rose almost 19 percent. We had one-third fewer Iowans on welfare than four years ago. Land values increased for the 11th consecutive year. "We created one of the best student-to-computer ratios in the nation and within a year every school district will be hooked up to the information superhighway. We ended the year with a state budget surplus of over $800 million -- the state's best fiscal position ever. And today every Iowa taxpayer is paying 10 percent less in state income taxes." Other governors offered a similar message, even the governors of some states that traditionally have been depressed, economic laggards, like West Virginia. The detail and the wording varied, but not the ultimate conclusion. "The state of our state is sound," said Gov. Tony Knowles, D- Alaska. "Our course is the right one. The future for most Alaskans is bright." "The most visionary, vibrant and vigorous state in America," asserted Gov. Tommy Thompson, R-Wis. "We are young. We are bold. We are strong." "We are now one of the premier economies in the nation, perhaps the world," boasted Gov. …

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