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Governors Give Up Funding Push Following Super Committee Failure

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NGA SUPER COMMITTEE
Tennesee Gov. Bill Haslam, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin and Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman at an NGA regional economic meeting in Nashville. | AP

The group representing the nation's governors is recalibrating its priorities after the super committee failed to reach a deficit reduction deal.

The National Governors Association is viewing the super committee failure as a signal to stop seeking new federal funding, according to NGA federal relations director David Quam.

"No one is looking for new federal money," Quam said.

The governors will instead increase efforts to monitor what federal programs -- and in turn, states -- will be impacted as the committee fallout triggers a mandated $600 billion in cuts to the federal budget over ten years, starting in 2013.

Quam said the NGA has several priorities for Congress in the coming weeks: monitoring Medicaid, the approval of an emergency responder communication network, and reauthorization bills on agriculture, transportation and tax rates.

The group pressed the committee on Medicaid and the first responder radio network in the final weeks leading up to the super committee deadline.

The NGA's top leaders, Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman (R) and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D), sent a letter to the super committee earlier this month urging the panel to focus on Medicaid and the radio spectrum auction for the network.

The governors are asking Congress to spare the states ballooning Medicaid costs. They are also seeking federal approval for allocating an unused radio wave -- a D-block wave -- solely to emergency responders for the purpose of public safety.

Quam said the D-block issue remains the top federal priority for governors. The allocation of the radio waves -- which are considered public property and thus regulated by the federal government -- would allow for the creation of a national public safety broadband network, a priority for state governments around the country. The government would "auction" the right to transmit on this wave to a company who would create the network.

"Interoperable communications is a long-term priority and expectation," Quam said, billing the subject as a public safety issue and not a telecommunications one. "The reallocation of this spectrum is the cornerstone of getting that system in place."

A proposal to create the D-block network for public safety first-responders has been discussed since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The proposal has been passed by the Senate Commerce Committee and is currently pending before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that auctioning the radio-wave would bring in $24.5 billion, while the cost of creating the network would reach $18 billion.

Quam said outside of those priorities, the NGA will be watching the various authorization bills due to come out of congressional committees in the next few months for their impact on the states. Several of the bills were slated for the super committee, but now will be handled by smaller congressional committees.

Among the bills on the NGA's agenda are reauthorization for the Department of Transportation and the Department of Agriculture, according to Quam. Many states receive federal funding for these sectors, but Quam declined to say which specific issues the governors' group will target.

Lastly, Quam said tax issues will also be on the governors' plate in coming days, as several federal tax laws are set to expire unless reauthorized by Congress. Tax legislation -- a divisive topic in Congress -- has been cited as a major obstacle in the super committee's negotiations.

As Quam said, in the wake of the super committee failure, for state governors, "There are a lot of unanswered questions."

CORRECTION: This article originally identified Delaware Gov. Jack Markell as a Republican. He is a Democrat.

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