Remarks by Telephone to the Republican Governors Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana

November 23, 1981

The President. Hello.

Governor Dalton. Mr. President, this is John Dalton. How are you tonight?

The President. John, I'm just fine, and sorry we're late. We're up here in Air Force One, and we've been having a time getting through to you. And, Dave Treen, our host there, and all of you, I've been looking forward to saying hello to all of you at the Republican Governors Conference, friends and former colleagues.

I would have called, not only just being late now, but, earlier, but I had a little problem there. I'm probably the first President to reach a Governors conference by direct long-distance dialing. All the White House telephone operators were furloughed today because of the veto.

You know, I thought I was going to turn out earlier today to be the first President to have to carry out the trash himself and mow the South Lawn. At noon, Washington was quite a ghost town. The last time I remember that much peace and quiet was when I was doing a ``Death Valley Days'' segment in Death Valley.

But, listen, I want to thank all of you for the resolution you adopted today in support of my veto and the support that you've given me all this time on the economic program. It was very heartwarming for me to find this out.

Last night, when I informed them that I would veto what they had passed, I suggested that after the veto an extension of the present continuing resolution, just for 20 days until December 15th, when we could come back from the Thanksgiving holidays and really settle this issue.

I don't know whether you're aware of this or not, or have heard the news, but this morning the House met, and then at noon the Senate convened, and before we left, the House had a solid victory for this 20-day extension. The House leadership had tried to get an extension all the way into the middle of February, which would have come after we'd even tried to get a 1983 budget, let alone find a solution to the 1982 budget.

And then, well, all the Republicans in the House stuck together and were aided by 43 Democrats, and they passed it. It went over to the Senate, where it passed 88 to 1. I signed it and, 10 minutes later, was on the plane heading for my own Thanksgiving.

This was my first veto, and as I mentioned in my statement this morning, the failure of the Congress to agree to a reasonable compromise, I felt, had left me no choice. The only alternative would have been to cave in to the big spenders.

I think that Congress has fallen into a bad habit when, if you stop to think that we didn't have a budget all the way through 1981 and now we're 2 months into 1982 and we still don't have a budget -- they just wait until the 11th hour to force through unnecessary spending. It's a kind of legislative game of chicken because for a Governor to veto -- a President to veto -- see, I'm getting right back in the swing of things, I still think I'm a Governor -- but it is a game of chicken, and someone just had to bring it to a halt.

There's no reason on Earth why the National Legislature can't act with the same responsibility as its counterparts at the State level. You've all had to make hard calls. It's a part of the job. And as Republicans, I know you share my commitment to making government at all levels less wasteful and more responsive to the American people.

Your meeting there in New Orleans couldn't have come at a more important time. In the year ahead, 36 States will hold gubernatorial elections, including 16 States with Republican incumbents up for reelection. A lot is at stake. And I hope that I can be of help to you and will be in every way I can.

Right now, of course, I think that means standing firm against those people, the sharpest critics, the ones who tried to pass this lengthy resolution today who really are the ones who took us down the path that has led to the trillion-dollar deficit over these last few decades. And they've offered nothing except a repeat of going down that same road. Well, I think it's time to choose a different road and to bring spending relief and tax relief for our overburdened citizens.

I know that I've talked to so many of you about federalism and my belief that we've drifted away from that concept. My dream is that we can return more authority, more autonomy and responsibility to you at the State level and, at the same time, turn back to you tax sources that have been preempted by the Federal Government and which they should no more have than the responsibilities that they have also preempted.

I think the people voted for a change in 1980. I think they'll be voting for much the same thing if we stay with this plan, and that's just what we're going to do in the congressional and State elections across the country in November of '82.

So, please believe that I'm not going to give up the fight for the block grants, for getting to you more flexibility in spending the money that comes from the national level. And we'll do this while we work and continue to work to get to that point that we can turn actual tax sources over to you.

Governor Dalton. Mr. President, we appreciate your calling. We've got 21 Republican Governors here, and we read a unanimous resolution there this morning. And Governor Dave Treen of Louisiana is here to speak to you also.

The President. Well, all right. And I appreciate that resolution also.

Governor Treen. Mr. President, there are several hundred people here, members of the Republican Governors Association Club, hosts, supporters of you, and supporters of the Republican Governors that I think at this point would like to stand up and give you a standing ovation for standing tough on an issue of vital importance to our country. [Applause]

Mr. President, I hope that you can hear that.

The President. I heard that -- --

Governor Treen. It is from the heart of these people.

The President. -- -- and, believe me, I think, from the way it sounded, if I'd have put down the phone, I could have heard it up here in the plane without the phone. Thank you all very much.

Governor Treen. Thank you, Mr. President, and Godspeed and have a good rest in California.

The President. Okay, David. I hope to see you all soon.

Governor Treen. We look forward to having you here, sir. Thank you. Good night.

The President. Okay. Good night, and -- --

Governor Treen. And good night to Mrs. Reagan.

The President. -- -- God bless all of you.

Governor Treen. Thank you, sir.

Governor Dalton. Good night, Mr. President.

Note: The President spoke at approximately 8:30 p.m., on board Air Force One, while en route to Santa Barbara, Calif.

Governor John Dalton of Virginia is chairman of the conference.