GOP governors hope to move fast on making promised changes

Posted at 8:54 AM, Nov 16, 2016

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Republicans are still celebrating their election victories, but the country's GOP governors warned this week that they need to move fast on many of the changes that have been promised to voters.

The Republican Governors Association held its annual conference at a resort near Disney World this week where several governors talked eagerly about how the election of Donald Trump could herald sweeping changes on everything from health care to education.

But many of them said those changes need to come soon before the nation and Republican leaders get caught up in the 2018 election cycle.

"We cannot squander this opportunity," said Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey.

Republicans now control the White House and Congress. And Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker pointed that this was the first time there has been this many GOP governors across the country since the 1920s.

Many of them were excited Tuesday about what could come next.

"The sky's the limit," Walker said. "There's no end to the good we can do."

Walker and other governors ticked off a long list of areas they would like to gain more control over whether it was education, transportation, workplace rules, health care or environmental policies. But they said some of these policies need to be tackled within Trump's first 100 days.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott contended that Democrats and their allies would do what they could to stop Republicans.

"The empire will strike back," said Scott, referencing the title of one of the "Star Wars" movies. "You can be sure they are right now planning to stop us from making real changes."

Most of the GOP governors mentioned health care when discussing their top priorities.

But it became evident they are not in complete agreement on how to unwind President Barack Obama's health care overhaul that included an expansion of Medicaid, the nation's main safety net health care program for the poor. An estimated 20 million Americans are now receiving coverage through different elements of the overhaul including Medicaid or through health care exchanges that offer insurance policies.

Scott called the overhaul a "disaster" and said Republicans need to repeal it entirely. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, however, said she expected people to continue to enroll for insurance using health care exchanges as long as it's the law and that they can't just take away insurance from people who have it now.

"I don't know that there will ever be a turn off the switch, wait a period of time and then turn it back on," said Martinez. "There is going to have to be a transition and not leave everyone uninsured."

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who noted that Medicaid was expanded in his state prior to his election, called for a "thoughtful approach" to revamping health care and said he wants the ability to put in additional requirements for Medicaid recipients such as work requirements. Hutchinson has tried to win federal approval for some of his ideas but said he had been "stymied" by the Obama administration.

"We have the opportunity to do things we cannot do now," Hutchinson said.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley called it a "new day" for statehouses across the country, but she added her own admonition.

"We can't celebrate too long, we've got to get to work," Haley said. "And that means 30 days, 60 days, 90 days, 120 days, all of us have to get to work."