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Governors' Council

BPC’s Governors’ Council brings to the federal discourse the experienced and pragmatic perspective of bipartisan leaders with proven records of tackling challenges. Download the Governors’ Council One Pager.

In 2011, the Bipartisan Policy Center launched the Governors’ Council to bring pragmatic state-based perspectives to national issues. The federalist tenets at the heart of the U.S. Constitution have fuelled a dynamic debate about the balance of federal and state powers throughout our nation’s history. Many of today’s most complex and pressing challenges, from reviving the economy to controlling health care costs, are deeply entangled in the interplay between federal and state roles and responsibilities. As leaders of our “laboratories of democracy,” governors around the country are on the frontlines.

Several years into a period of prolonged economic weakness and instability, many Americans have lost faith in and the ability of federal decision-makers to come to grips with a host of difficult challenges – straining state-federal relations. But it is precisely in times of economic hardship and social discontent that our nation needs federalism to work at its best. Today’s challenges create opportunities to put our federalist system on a new and stronger footing and will create powerful incentives for states and the federal government to work together more efficiently.

The council brings together a bipartisan group of former governors who have proven records of working across the aisle with their state legislatures, Congressional delegations and other governors. As a group, they have three primary concerns regarding state interactions with the federal government: (1) the impact of growing budget pressures at all levels – including unfunded mandates; (2) the effect the inflexibility and bureaucracy associated with many federal policies and programs has on states’ ability to innovate; and (3) the inability of Congress to address the nation’s most pressing problems.

Annually, the Governors’ Council will examine targeted issues through a handful of short reports and regional events. The council’s work will:

  • Explore federal-state dynamics
  • Identify state best practices that might be adopted among other states or at the federal level
  • Make recommendations focused on transparent and flexible performance goals and shared responsibility

The council released recommendations for reforming Medicaid waivers in February 2012, and is exploring other areas for improving the state-federal relationship.

Solving the nation’s problems with fewer resources is the reality for the foreseeable future – but one with a significant upside if it spurs a thoughtful examination of how federalism could be made to work more effectively for the American people.

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