Thursday, April 19, 2018
Politics

Gov. Rick Scott drops Florida's membership in governors group

WASHINGTON — Governors attending an annual meeting this weekend will take up the theme of "Growing State Economies," an initiative they hope will boost hiring and create jobs in their home states.

But Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who has made jobs the centerpiece of his administration, will not be at the gathering.

Florida, along with Texas, Ohio and Idaho, is one of four states whose Republican governors have declined to pay annual membership dues to the National Governors Association. Scott is one of just a handful of U.S. governors not going to the annual meeting — 46 governors from U.S. states and territories will be in attendance.

Scott will be in Washington, though. He and his wife, Ann Scott, will fly in Sunday for what many governors and their spouses consider the highlight of the annual weekend in Washington: a black tie dinner hosted by the president and first lady at the White House. The dinner is not affiliated with the NGA.

Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said that when the governor took office last year, he asked all of his agencies to examine the value of the association memberships being paid for by the state.

"Gov. Scott did the same and determined the NGA membership was not an appropriate expense for the state of Florida at this time," she said.

The amount of the state's NGA membership dues were not disclosed by the NGA or Scott's office. NGA dues range from $22,000 to $176,000, depending on the size of the state.

Instead, Scott chose to be a member of the Republican Governors Association, which relies on corporate donors and in part on donations from hundreds of wealthy conservatives who donate to the group for access to events featuring GOP governors.

Unlike the NGA, strictly a policy-based organization, the RGA's primary mission is to help elect Republicans to governorships throughout the nation. Democrat governors have a similar political arm.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, has long been a skeptic of the NGA's value to his state. Texas, which left the organization in 2002, was paying about $135,000 in dues. Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, who dropped his state's membership in 2010, decided he would rather not spend an estimated $10,000 on travel.

Even if governors haven't paid their dues, all 55 state and territorial governors technically remain members of the 104-year-old organization. But they're only considered "members of good standing" if their dues are paid up, the organization said Friday.

Kaiser Health News reported last year that the NGA has stopped helping Florida, Ohio, Idaho and Texas implement the new health care law because they dropped their memberships in the organization. All four states are among the 26 states suing to overturn the law.

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