Mike Beebe: Don't Shift 'Fiscal Cliff' Burden to States

Gov. Mike Beebe and fellow members of the National Governors Association's executive committee didn't discuss policy details during a 90-minute visit on Tuesday with President Obama about the impending fiscal cliff. 

But Beebe told Arkansas reporters on Wednesday that states are willing to share in the sacrifices ahead but not carry a disproportionate burden. He said governors told Obama the fiscal cliff is not where states want to go.

Beebe said he didn't have any better idea of whether congressional leaders would reach a compromise than he did before the trip. But he said he returned home with some optimism that a group of "disparate governors" representing different states and interests could agree that a compromise was necessary.

"We hope that can provide an example" to Congress, Beebe said.

"Fiscal cliff" has become a popular term used to describe the uncomfortable position facing the federal government on Jan. 1, when a series of tax increases and spending cuts are scheduled to go into effect.

A state Department of Finance and Administration analysis of potential cuts to state programs under a fiscal cliff scenario revealed a $54.8 million in fiscal year 2012. Cuts could include almost $13 million in local education grants, $8.5 million in special education grants and a combined $11 million in grants devoted to Head Start and women, infants and children programs.

See an outline of the potential cuts here.

Beebe stressed that the state's obligations to fund federally mandated programs must be relieved by any cuts to those programs.

States can't be expected to carry the burden on their backs, Beebe said.

"We don't want cuts based on just shifting costs to states," he said.

Beebe said governors and the executive branch will remain in constant contact until a resolution is reached.

Beebe is one of three Democrats on the six-member NGA executive committee. The bipartisan group also included Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Mark Dayton of Minnesota, Gary Herbert of Utah, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Jack Markell of Delware, who is NGA chairman.