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Clinton Hosts Governors Minus Bush

February 28, 2000 GMT

WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton, who claims much of the credit for the economic boom that coincided with his elevation from a governor to a president, said Sunday the nation’s current good fortune is a rare opportunity for all in government.

``It is truly a new economy,″ Clinton said as he welcomed the nation’s current crop of governors to the White House. ``It has changed not only the way people make a living, but the way they live and relate to one another.″

Clinton meets with governors three times this week, and while he will hear ideas about how to keep the good times going he will likely hear a few complaints, too. Many of the 50 governors worry that the federal government will stymie states’ individual innovations in a variety of areas, including healthcare and taxation.

Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt, chairman of the National Governors’ Association, said the group wants Clinton to hear its debate over governors’ roles in keeping state economies prosperous.

``Much of that will reflect our desire that the federal government not attempt to preempt our activities in that regard,″ Leavitt said Sunday.

Clinton, who rose to national prominence as governor of Arkansas in the 1980s, reflected on his waning days in office as he played host Sunday night at a formal dinner in the White House State Dining Room.

``In 11 months I will be a private citizen,″ he said. ``Most of you will still be serving. Think of that,″ and don’t waste this moment of economic prosperity, he said.

Saxophone player Kenny G was the featured entertainment for a smaller-than-expected crowd of 34 state governors and most of the Clinton Cabinet.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush was one of those who missed the menu of grilled Arctic char and rock shrimp served on the Ronald Reagan china. Bush was campaigning for president in Seattle. His brother Jeb Bush, who is governor of Florida, was in Washington for the governors’ conference but skipped the White House dinner.

On Monday, the governors return to the White House for a weightier discussion session with Clinton. The president will likely focus on the successful economy in his annual address to the group, but will also touch on the problem of rising oil prices, White House spokesman Jim Kennedy said.

Clinton also planned to address Democratic governors separately on Monday night.

The governors’ four-day meeting is centered on the findings in a new economic report prepared for the group. The report, a copy of which was sent to the White House weeks ago, concluded that states must aggressively refashion their governments if they want to continue to compete.