Beebe says states willing to work on averting fiscal cliff


WASHINGTON — Gov. Mike Beebe left a meeting with President Obama on Tuesday saying state governors are willing to assist the federal government in avoiding the fiscal cliff.

“States are willing to share the sacrifice,” Beebe told reporters gathered outside the White House. “We don’t want to take it all, but we are willing to do our part.”

Obama met with six members of the National Governors Association executive committee to discuss automatic spending cuts and tax increases that will go into effect Jan. 1 if Congress and the White House don’t agree on a budget plan.

The NGA group, which included three Democrats and three Republicans, did not endorse a specific plan but expressed unified interest in seeing a deal struck. They offered their assistance and will work with Vice President Joe Biden moving forward.

“There was a unity by all of these governors … not to get too specific but to express our willingness to aid and assist with the effort,” said Beebe, a Democrat.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, a Republican, said she is hoping that the Senate and House are able to come up with a solution by the end of the month that will take into account the impact budget cuts can have on states, particularly when federal mandates remain in place.

“We ask for flexibility to do what is in the best interest of our states,” Fallin said.

Beebe said the governors also stressed the need for quick action.

“With delay you’ve got a drag on the economy,” he said.

The White House and Republicans in Congress have staked out competing proposals to avert the fiscal cliff.

House Republicans on Monday proposed a $2.2 trillion plan that includes $800 billion in higher tax revenues but does not raise rates for high-income earners. Obama’s plan would raise taxes by $1.6 trillion over the coming decade, including higher taxes on the top 2 percent.

Prior to meeting with Obama and Biden, the governors sat down with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew and other White House staff to discuss the fiscal cliff.

“We had good interchanges back and forth,” Beebe said.

The governors met later with House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Beebe missed those meetings to head back to Arkansas.

Attending the White House meeting were Beebe, Fallin, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.