Executive Director’s Notebook: Western Governors on a roll as Annual Meeting approaches

By Jim Ogsbury

We are enjoying an extraordinary year in the life of WGA.  I was meeting with my senior management team the other day, and somebody griped that the Governors have enjoyed too many successes to fit them all into our 2018 Annual Report.  What a great problem to have.

It is clear that the current generation of Western Governors has hit its stride, and their policy accomplishments are being scored at a dizzying rate.  Their relentless advocacy of a fix to the federal “fire borrowing” problem – under which fire prevention funds were regularly transferred to suppression accounts – produced a solution in the last omnibus appropriations bill passed by Congress.  Western Governors also persuaded the Administration that states have competencies to regulate methane emissions and determine financial assurance requirements for the hard rock mining industry, without the need for duplicative federal regulation.

Their herculean efforts to improve the state-federal relationship have begun to bear fruit inside the Capital Beltway.  Earlier this year, Western Governors C. L. “Butch” Otter of Idaho, Susana Martinez of New Mexico and Gary Herbert of Utah testified about the problem of the federal government treating states like stakeholders (rather than as sovereigns and partners) before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  That same day, WGA hosted a state-federal symposium at the Pew Center in Washington, D.C., and we’re also promoting a package of specific reform proposals to Congress and the Administration.

Also this year, WGA sponsored its first-ever Western Working Lands Forum, which explored the inter-relationships between a number of WGA policy efforts in the natural resources area, including Montana Governor Steve Bullock’s National and Forest Rangeland Management Initiative and the Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative of Wyoming Governor Matt Mead.

And while Western Governors continue to show dominant leadership in resource issues, they have moved aggressively into other areas of economic policy.  Under the leadership of South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard, the Association’s current Chair, WGA has pursued an ambitious Workforce Development Initiative.  The Governors have engaged WGA on targeted trade issues, and we are cooperating with counties on a project to improve the collection and application of data for policy-making purposes. 

It’s an exciting time to be involved with WGA, so I encourage you all to attend our 2018 Annual Meeting, June 25-27 in Rapid City, where the Governors will be joined by: the Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke; the Secretary of Labor, Alex Acosta; and Philip Anschutz, a visionary entrepreneur and author who recently published his second volume of Western history.  I encourage you to register now.         

It’s a great time to be a states person.  I look forward to seeing you in South Dakota.

Jim Ogsbury is the Executive Director of the Western Governors' Association. Contact him at 303-623-9378 or send an email. Get the latest news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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