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Locke has Harsh Words for Bush

by David Ammons, Associated Press
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 19, 2003

OLYMPIA -- Gov. Gary Locke, chairman of the nation's Democratic governors, yesterday blistered President Bush on the environment, energy, education and economic development.

Locke accused the Bush administration and the Republican Congress of foot dragging on adopting mandatory national standards for electricity transmission.

He said this state and the Northwest, however, are apparently in good shape and shouldn't fear a blackout like the one that hit parts of Canada and the eastern United States last week.

He made his comments in a telephone interview during a break at the National Governors' Conference in Indianapolis. The president Friday is scheduled to make his first visit to Washington state since his inauguration.

Locke was taking careful notes on the conference itself -- he is host for next summer's gathering in Seattle. Some of the Seattle organizing committee is in Indiana getting pointers.

"Everybody's looking forward to Seattle, and many of the governors say they'll bring their families and spend additional time in Washington," Locke said.

He portrayed his colleagues as shellshocked from their states' deep budget woes -- and frustrated by the federal government's lack of help on a number of fronts.

As he did in his televised response to the president's State of the Union Address last winter, Locke took Bush to task.

"I've not been pleased with his environmental record, and that's just part of the frustration," Locke said.

Locke said environmental protections have been eroded, the administration botched the handling of the Western states' energy crunch, and Bush needs to do more to safeguard the nation's electricity supply.

"Thank goodness the Western governors, regardless of party, have long been calling for greater reliability of the Bonneville Power Administration (transmission grid) and reliability standards," he said.

"You can never be sure, but I'm confident our systems are much more reliable and that we have been making the necessary upgrades to our transmission system. We still need more incentives for our utility operators to have more efficient transmission lines."

Locke asserted that Bush has "abandoned his commitment to fully funding his own 'Leave No Child Behind' education program.

"It's a huge topic among governors. He imposes a huge responsibility on states, on individual districts and schools and leaves them billions of dollars short."

Even something as simple as annual testing of pupils is a costly mandate if there is no financial follow-through, Locke said. And, he said, the administration's response to unemployment is paltry.

The president doesn't deserve full blame for the recession, but neither has he provided forceful leadership to turn the country around, the governor said.

The White House did not directly respond to Locke's barbs, but defended the president's overall environmental record.

David Ammons, Associated Press
Locke has Harsh Words for Bush
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, August 19, 2003

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