OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Gov. Brad Henry is hoping President-elect Barack Obama will sign off on a federal stimulus package that will include money for highway and bridge projects in Oklahoma.
Henry left Monday for Philadelphia, where Obama is scheduled to meet with more than 40 governors who are members of the National Governor's Association.
The Oklahoma chief executive said the economy will be foremost on the minds of the governors when they meet Tuesday with Obama. He said health care funding also is sure to be discussed.
“The president-elect has talked about investing in infrastructure, and that, of course, is of great interest to the governors. I'm hopeful that there will be a substantial investment in transportation infrastructure in Oklahoma that will create immediate construction jobs.
“We know from past experience that whenever we have that type of investment, there is substantial private investment that follows. It's sort of the old ‘if-you-build-it-they-will-come theory.' It will be good for the state economy and the national economy,” Henry said.
Obama has asked Congress to ready an economic stimulus package for him to sign as soon as possible after he takes office on Jan. 20. Many economists favor stimulus spending that aids state and local governments.
Henry said Oklahoma official have discussed a list of highway and bridge projects to be funded from stimulus money.
Terri Angier, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, said the initial list is likely to contain 90 to 100 projects at a cost of between $750 million to $800 million.
“Regardless of what we think we may get, we're trying to get every project in our eight-year plan pulled out that can be ready with minimal preparation to be constructed,” she said.
Henry said he and other governors will want to know Obama's immediate plans on health care. “He talked about a pretty ambitious health care plan during the campaign. I'm assuming that may be on hold, pending stabilization of the national and international economy, but I don't know that,” he said.
He said he is certain governors will object to cutbacks in federal Medicaid funding. “This is not the time for the federal government to be clawing back Medicaid dollars from the states. It creates a (budget) hole that we have to fill with state dollars.”
During Obama's meeting, Henry said there will likely be talk of “various green initiatives, as well as development of alternative, renewable, sustainable fuels.”
He said creation of a bioenergy center two years ago in Oklahoma put the state in position to be a leader in development of energy alternatives to fossil fuels.
Many states also are interested in an Oklahoma program that helps small employers to have access to affordable private health insurance, Henry said.