Gore mocks bureaucracy in speech to governors

August 16, 1993|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Staff Writer

TULSA, Okla. -- Vice President Al Gore bashed the federal bureaucracy yesterday, saying Washington's whole approach to governing is outdated.

"Washington has preserved its outmoded ways," Mr. Gore said in a speech to the National Governors' Association. "The 'quality revolution' has completely bypassed the federal government."

Mr. Gore, who chairs a national task force charged with finding more efficient and less costly ways for the federal government to deliver services, promised that help was on the way. His National Performance Review will not be completed until next month, but he gave the governors a hint of what his task force is likely to recommend:

* The signing of a presidential executive order that for the first time would let state governments review federal regulations before they are put into effect. The governors applauded this announcement.

* That states, cities or other entities that receive federal grants would be allowed to decide when spending for grant programs may be consolidated -- a decision from the "bottom up" rather than from the "top down."

* That more federal programs will be consolidated, more regulations eliminated or streamlined, and that more will be done to assure that states are not required to deliver services unless the federal government also gives states the money needed to carry out such mandates.

* That more be done to link state and federal governments with rapidly advancing computer technologies. "Government is writing with a quill pen in an age of WordPerfect," the vice president said, referring to a popular computer software program.

Mr. Gore was the first of three national figures to attend the governors' 85th annual meeting in this sun-scorched northeastern Oklahoma city.

President Clinton is to launch his campaign for national health care reform with a speech to the governors today, and U.S. Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas, the Republican leader in the Senate, will talk about prospects for passage of such legislation at the conference's concluding session tomorrow.

Already, this usually bipartisan gathering has begun to split along partisan lines on the health reform issue. Some GOP governors are staking out a position against raising taxes to pay for health care reform, and against any program that would require businesses to provide their employees with health insurance, even before Mr. Clinton announces details of his proposal.

The nation's governors, who are being squeezed by declining revenues in their home states, are seeking ways to "reinvent government," and they publicly gushed their support for the vice president's efforts. Privately, however, several sounded skeptical that Congress would ever permit the changes that are needed.

"The big fear many of us as governors have is that Congress doesn't understand," said Minnesota Gov. Arne H. Carlson, a Republican.

Democratic Gov. Ann W. Richards of Texas agreed: "The thing that will defeat you," she warned the vice president, "is cynicism with the staff and Congress because they've always done it the same way."

Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer was even more critical, saying the session with the vice president was little more than hot air.

"This is good for publicity," he said, accusing NGA Chairman Roy Romer, the Democratic governor of Colorado, of using the theme of reinventing government "just to glorify himself."

Mr. Schaefer kept his thoughts to himself at the public session, but afterward said he was offended that the good deeds of federal, state or local government employees were never mentioned.

"I kept my own counsel because I didn't like some of the things they were implying about [public] employees," he said later.

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