Scott drops out of governors association over dues

McClatchy NewspapersFebruary 25, 2012 

WASHINGTON -- Governors attending an annual meeting this weekend will take up the theme of Growing State Economies, an initiative they hope will boost hiring and create jobs in their home states.

But Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who has made jobs the centerpiece of his administration, will not be at the gathering.

Florida, along with Texas, Ohio and Idaho, is one of four states whose Republican governors have declined to pay annual membership dues to the National Governors Association. Forty-six governors from U.S. states and territories will be in attendance.

Scott will be in Washington, though. He and his wife, Ann Scott, will jet in Sunday for what many governors and their spouses consider the highlight of the annual weekend in Washington: a black tie dinner hosted by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House. The dinner is not affiliated with the NGA.

Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said that when the governor took office last year, he asked all of his agencies to examine the value of the association memberships the state paid for. “Gov. Scott did the same and determined the NGA membership was not an appropriate expense for the state of Florida at this time,” she said.

The amount of the state’s NGA membership dues were not disclosed by the NGA or Scott’s office. NGA dues range from $22,000 to $176,000, depending on the size of the state.

Instead, Scott chose to be a member of the Republican Governor’s Association, which relies, in part, on donations from hundreds of wealthy conservatives who donate to the group for access to events featuring GOP governors.

Scott thinks the RGA’s reliance on sponsorship “is more appropriate” than the dues required by the NGA, Schutz said. Unlike the NGA, which is strictly a policy-based organization, the RGA’s primary mission is to help elect Republicans to governorships throughout the nation. Democrat governors have a similar political arm.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, has long been a skeptic of the organization’s value to his state. Texas, which left the organization in 2002, was paying about $135,000 in dues. Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, who dropped his state’s membership in the NGA in 2010, decided he would rather not spend an estimated $10,000 on travel.

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