SALT LAKE CITY -- Last year, Utah Governor Gary Herbert, a Republican, was in charge, serving as Chair of the National Governor's Association and talking with the Obama administration at their annual winter meeting.
This year, Virginia Governor Terry Mcauliffe, a Democrat, gets to entertain his fellow governor's while playing the role of cordial host to Republican President Donald Trump.
As a gathering of executives talking about the practicalities of keeping a state on course and on budget, the NGA serves as a counterpoint to the intense partisanship of Washington culture. This year, because the President is delivering a late joint address to congress rather than a January State of the Union Address not given in a chief executive's first year, the timing of the NGA meeting has served as an extended preview of the policy prescriptions the President will roll out on Tuesday.
"It will include a historic increase in defense spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America at a time we most need it," Trump told the Governors, with initial reports on his proposal saying he plans a ten percent increase in military spending.
On healthcare, Trump told the governors, "We have come up with a solution that is really, really, very good."
And on state's rights, a key issue for Herbert and many Republicans in the Utah State Legislature who hope for more control of public lands and fewer federal mandates: "We're also going to do whatever we can to restore the authority of the states when that is the appropriate thing to do."
Herbert has kept Trump at arm's length since the October release of a tape from Access Hollywood in which Trump was heard talking about getting away with groping women because of his fame.
Asked about the President by Politico.com, Herbert said he was "cautiously optimistic," because he believes the President has selected a strong team.