Less than a week before billions of dollars of U.S. spending cuts are set to begin, governors meeting in Washington ratcheted up the pressure on Congress and President Barack Obama to find an alternative to the reductions and give states more say in bringing down the federal debt.
"I certainly join the chorus of voices that are calling for that administration and members of Congress to come together and find more responsible cuts," said Indiana Governor Mike Pence, a Republican who served in the House of Representatives during the 2011 negotiations that led to the cuts.
Congress is expected to return to work on Monday to try to forge an agreement on avoiding the cuts, which are known as sequester or sequestration and are intended to save $1.2 trillion over 10 years. At the end of 2012, lawmakers decided to push the sequester's start date back to March 1 from Jan. 1.
Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie, a Democrat who served in the House of Representatives for nearly 20 years, anticipates they will decide again to delay the start of the process.
"I think there will be a push-off," he said on Saturday. "But what will happen is some deep breaths will be taken, some real soul-searching will take place about what the political implications are going to be if this happens again and again. And I think a more long-term resolution will take place."
Republican and Democratic governors agree the federal government must shrink the deficit. They have already met with the White House and lawmakers in the first two months of 2013 to discuss sequestration alternatives.
In those meetings "We said, look we all know we've got to suffer a little bit together to get this ship righted," said Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat. "We're willing to take our share, but we don't want to take more than our share."
They are asking that any plan addressing the deficit should also help states save money, give them flexibility in deciding which areas to cut in their states, and not shift costs onto their budgets, said Governor Mary Fallin, a Republican from Oklahoma.
Sequestration was designed as a threat by Congress, which set itself a deadline in the fall of 2011 to agree on spending reductions. Because it missed the deadline, a scheme of automatic cuts decided by formula kicked in.
"We should all remember that sequestration was originally designed by Congress as something so odious, so