Dukakis speaks on state govt.

by Steve Hoffman | 5/2/93 10:00pm

A Democratic presidential candidate and a Republican governor said Friday during a panel discussion at the College that state governors should mastermind their own state economic strategies, but they disagreed over how to do it.

The panel discussion about responsible spending in tight economic times featured former Massachusetts Governor and 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis and current New Hampshire Governor Stephen Merrill.

Titled "Promoting Economic Development and Providing for Basic Human Needs in an Era of Political and Fiscal Constraint," Friday's panel concluded a two-day symposium commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Rockefeller Center for the Social Sciences.

Dukakis said that state economic planning is a 20-year-old phenomenon.

When Nelson Rockefeller '30, the namesake of the Rockefeller Center, was Governor of New York during the 1960s, states were flush with funds and did not need to plan for shortfalls, Dukakis said.

Now, "every state in the nation has an economic strategy," he said.

Dukakis estimated he spent 60 to 70 percent of each day when he was governor on economic policy making.

The key to a state's economic development is a "carefully planned, well thought-out, aggressively implemented economic blueprint," Dukakis said.

He said an effective strategy should contain six elements to promote the state's economic growth: fiscal stability, investment in physical infrastructure, support for new technology, the promotion of international trade, providing capital for small and medium size businesses and education and training programs.

Dukakis said that balanced budget-laws in most states result in cutting budgets and raising taxes when people can least afford these measures.

"It is difficult in times of national recession to sustain fiscal stability," Dukakis said.

Governors must stimulate economic growth in their states by investing in highways, transportation systems and new technology such as fiber optics, Dukakis said.

"A first-class transportation system is an essential part of an economic strategy," Dukakis said.

While Merrill agreed with Dukakis on the need for an economic strategy, he said these difficult times require greater government accountability, the prioritizing of government programs and strategic investment for economic development.

Merrill said voters no longer trust politicians. He cited independent candidate Ross Perot's popularity in the 1992 Presidential election as evidence of voter discontent.

"Citizens want results," Merrill said. He added that people do not care whether the changes come from Democrats or Republicans.

"You have to provide that which you say you'll provide," Merrill said.

Merrill, a Republican, criticized Congress for filibustering President Clinton's economic stimulus package and preventing him from achieving the plans he articulated during the campaign.

Dukakis said Clinton's entire economic forecast presented to Congress in February was a national version of the type of economic strategy that governors have been implementing at the state level.

Dukakis and Merrill both criticized former President George Bush for his inability to create such a national economic plan.