[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1993, Book II)]
[December 1, 1993]
[Pages 2084-2087]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks to the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations
December 1, 1993

    Thank you very much. First, Governor Winter and to all the other 
members of the Commission, let me thank you for your willingness to 
serve. I very much believe in the potential of this group, both because 
of the quality of the individuals on it and because of the way it's 
constituted, with representatives from the Federal, the State, and the 
local government and with both Democrats and Republicans here. I also 
want to say a special word of thanks to my friend, Bill Winter, for 
being willing to serve as Chair. He is one of my closest personal as 
well as political friends. When he was willing to do this, because I 
knew that he had spent years thinking about a lot of these issues, I 
felt that we had a chance to make this group succeed.
    When we began to talk 2 years ago, more than two years ago now, 
about whether I would run for President, he and I agreed that one

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of the things that we needed to do was to somehow restore the integrity, 
the strength, the vitality of the relationships between the various 
levels of government.
    One of the biggest problems we've got in this country today is that 
everybody knows that there are a lot of things that the government has 
to be involved in at some level, but there is a great skepticism about 
the ability of government to do its job, particularly here in 
Washington, a skepticism not without foundation, I might add.
    There was a wonderful article in the Wall Street Journal the other 
day, talking about the attitudes of people in a town in Illinois about 
the health care issue. And one of the people who was quoted in the 
article had a one-sentence quote that I thought summarized in a way the 
dilemma that we all face, at least those of us who go to work here in 
Washington every day. The man said, ``I believe in government, but I'm 
not sure I trust it.'' You know, in other words, I believe in the idea; 
I know that there are some things a government has to do that can't be 
done without the government, but I'm not sure they get done right, 
either because people will not do the right thing or because it won't be 
confidently done.
    Because I served a dozen years as a Governor and worked on these 
federalism issues from another perspective and because I worked in a, I 
think, considerably less partisan atmosphere--it's just the nature of 
State and local government to be more problem-focused and somewhat less 
ideologically oriented--I think I've got a pretty good sense about what 
the potential is of this group to try to help us in our efforts to 
redefine what we should be doing here in Washington and how we can be 
working with you better.
    The first thing I want to tell you is that I'm very serious about 
these issues and that I want to pursue them vigorously, thoroughly, 
consistently, and with the appropriate level of visibility. I'm glad to 
see my good friend Secretary Riley here, who also has shared the 
experience with Bill Winter and I--we were Governors together for a long 
time--and who has a good feel for these things, too.
    Carolyn Lukensmeyer is here to report to you on the federalism 
suggestions that came out of the National Performance Review, the Vice 
President's reinventing Government report. He wanted to be here 
personally, but I asked him to go to Mexico today to deliver an 
important speech in the aftermath of the passage of the North American 
Free Trade Agreement legislation last week, and that's why he's there 
today and not here. But there are some important recommendations in the 
National Performance Review that I hope (a) will be endorsed by this 
group, (b) may be amplified on it, and (c) that you may have some ideas 
about how we can actually implement them. We get a lot of wonderful 
ideas up here, but there's a lot of slips between the cup and the lip. 
So we need your help on that.
    Secondly, there are a whole series of empowerment initiatives that 
we have tried to take to enable State and local governments to do their 
jobs better by creating a different environment. The empowerment zone 
legislation is one. If these empowerment zones work to actually get 
private sector investment and public-private partnerships at the local 
level going in otherwise economically distressed areas of our country, 
then I think you will see them sweep the country. I think the Congress 
will be more than willing to vote more of the empowerment zones if we 
can prove it works. Well, that requires a level of partnership and 
followthrough that the Federal Government alone can certainly not 
    The community enterprise board we've set up, designed to see what we 
can do to sort of push down more decisionmaking at the governmental 
level and to require more partnerships to build from the grassroots up, 
is an important thing.
    I issued an Executive order on unfunded mandates which a lot of you 
were involved in helping me put together. Our administration has been 
quite vigorous in granting waivers to States for welfare reform 
experiments and for some health care reform experiments. I want to 
continue to do that, and I want you to explore with me what we can do to 
help you do your jobs better.
    Perhaps the most important recommendation of the reinventing 
Government commission was that we consolidate a lot of these grants and 
let you fashion your own use for the Federal money that's been set aside 
in too many little discrete pieces for the benefit of people at the 
local level. So there are a whole lot of issues we can deal with.
    The main point I want to leave you with today is that I haven't 
forgotten what it was like to be on the other end of this relationship,

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first. Secondly, my appointment of Bill Winter and the quality of this 
Commission demands that we take your work seriously. Thirdly, we 
actually need for you to think about what specific steps ought to be 
pursued in defining what the Federal role ought to be.
    And let me just say one thing in closing out of respect to the 
Members of Congress who are here. There's been a lot of discussion in 
this town which will give way to reality as we move into the first 
budget year and as we move into next year's budget about how much we did 
or didn't cut spending. I asked yesterday Leon Panetta to tell me how 
many Federal accounts there are, you know, separate lines in the 
appropriations bill, where there's actually less money this year to be 
spent than there was last year. And the answer is 356 specific Federal 
accounts will have less money in this fiscal year than they did in the 
last year. Notwithstanding that, in the coming budget year, under the 
budget plan we now have, we're going to have to have significant other 
budget cuts in various areas.
    Now, what I'm interested in doing is figuring out--and what the 
Members of Congress will have to help do--is to figure out within a 
Government Department and then across departmental lines, what is it 
that the Federal Government should be doing, and if not doing, what 
should the Federal Government be funding for you to do? And what things 
are we doing that may be nice but are relatively inessential at a time 
when we clearly have--the biggest dilemma for the Congress is this: 
almost every person in the Congress, without regard to whether they're a 
liberal or a conservative or a Democrat or a Republican, believes that 
we have to continue to reduce the deficit. We know that the serious 
efforts we've made have produced low interest rates, higher investment, 
housing starts, the biggest in 14 years; the beginning of this lumbering 
big economy coming back. On the other hand, virtually every Member of 
the Congress, including the most conservative Republicans, believe we 
are not investing enough in certain areas that prevent bad things from 
happening, that develop the capacity of people, and most importantly of 
all, help us to make this transition from a defense to a domestic 
commercial economy.
    The great gaps in structural unemployment from California to New 
York and Connecticut, occasioned by the big cutbacks in defense 
spending, have made most everybody in the Congress quite sensitive to 
what kinds of investments we ought to have at the national level to 
generate jobs and high wage jobs.
    So in order to achieve both those objectives, we have to be much 
more disciplined about what our job is and what your job is; about which 
of our programs really make a difference and which are nice but don't 
make that much of a difference; about how we can shift Federal spending 
to more investment and relatively less consumption, to make it more 
forward-thinking. And there is a real willingness, I think, in the 
Congress, to listen to and learn from the shared experiences of people 
in State and local government as we are forced to make these decisions. 
And believe me, whatever targets we do or don't adopt next time, if we 
just stay with the budget we've got, there is going to be an extremely 
rigorous and difficult budgetary process beginning here early next year. 
Anyone who's really studied the numbers knows that when you get beyond 
the rhetoric to the reality, there are a whole lot more reductions that 
are going to have to be made.
    So on the other hand, everybody wants to increase funding in some 
areas. To whatever extent we are in sync with that and we are building 
the kind of partnership we ought to be, this country's going to be much 
better off. And to whatever extent you feel that the Government in 
Washington is doing the right thing, given its difficulties, and you can 
communicate that, we will collectively begin to rebuild the confidence 
of the American people that we're doing the best we can with the tax 
money they give us and in operating the Government in a more efficient 
and effective way.
    I personally believe the consolidation of a lot of these discrete 
programs is very important. But if we do it, we have to find a way, and 
I hope that there will be candid conversations about this. I hope the 
Members of Congress will be candid with the State and local governmental 
representatives about this.
    There are reasons why these programs get created in the way they 
do--where you have 150 separate training programs; we shouldn't, but we 
do--why we have all these other programs in little pieces, when it would 
be better if they were in one big piece and you had a laundry list of 
permissible things that could be done with this money. And then you 
would design what's best for your city, your county, or

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your State. And I hope we can get into exploring that, because I'm 
convinced, with the amount of money fairly fixed and with the demands on 
the money and with the differences, the drastic differences in economics 
from place to place, you need a lot more flexibility than you've got. 
But we need to be candid here about why the laws are the way they are, 
what the problems have been in the past, and what kind of new 
arrangements we can make if we're going to have any hope of implementing 
the reinventing Government recommendations on consolidating the grants.
    So that, in short, Mr. Chairman, are some of the things that I 
wanted to say. I believe in the potential of this group. I want to work 
with you. I want to help to make sure that you have both consistent 
support and the appropriate level of visibility so that we send the 
message out to the country that we are trying to work through these 
things and give the American people a Government that they can not only 
believe in but also trust.
    Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 10:01 a.m. in the Indian Treaty Room of the 
Old Executive Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to Carolyn 
Lukensmeyer, deputy project director for management, National 
Performance Review. The Executive order of October 26 on enhancing the 
intergovernmental partnership is listed in Appendix D at the end of this