SANTA FE, N.M. – The Bush administration's talk of a rebounding economy doesn't reflect what's going on in households around America, Democratic governors attending a policy conference said Saturday.
Job and retirement worries, rising health care costs and higher tuition rates are eating at middle-class families, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (search) contended.
As to administration officials' recent statements about the robust economy, "Well, I don't know where they're buying gas," said Vilsack, chairman of the Democratic Governors' Association (search).
A spokesman for President Bush's re-election campaign countered that the governors had picked up "the doom-and-gloom mantra of the Kerry campaign."
Nationwide, 1.4 million jobs have been created in the last nine months, nearly 1 million of those in the last three months, said Danny Diaz, a spokesman for Bush-Cheney '04.
"This is part of a national trend that is creating more opportunities for American families and businesses," he said in a telephone interview.
Vilsack and Govs. Bill Richardson (search) of New Mexico, Kathleen Sebelius (search) of Kansas and Jim Doyle (search) of Wisconsin accused Bush of not providing leadership on economic issues, leaving governors to grapple with jobs creation and other problems even as they beg the federal government for "a few little scraps."
"I think all of us feel like we're on our own at this point, with this administration," Sebelius said.
The governors held a news conference following a morning meeting at which they discussed energy, telecommunications and transportation issues.
Santa Fe also is the site of another governors' conclave; the Western Governors' Association annual meeting begins Sunday.
The Democratic governors' comments echoed the campaign-trail statements of Sen. John Kerry, Bush's presidential rival, whom the president is seeking to portray as a pessimist.
Vilsack — who's on a list of possible vice-presidential picks checked out by the Kerry campaign — said Kerry is "speaking directly to the concerns and anxieties that I hear on Main Street ... offering them some hope ... a very concrete vision of how this country can be better."
Wisconsin's Doyle said his state, which is second in the percentage of workers employed in manufacturing, has lost 80,000 manufacturing jobs over the past three years.
Fairer trade practices must be enacted and the federal government must provide more help in training workers, he said.
"We need to have leadership and vision in where the manufacturing economy and the economy of this country in general is going," Doyle said.
Diaz, the Bush campaign spokesman, said it was ironic that the Democratic governors criticized Bush the day after it was announced that 2,800 new jobs were created in May in New Mexico, where the unemployment rate has dropped to 5.5 percent from 6.3 percent a year ago.
Richardson, who has pushed tax cuts and vigorous investment strategies, took the credit for the improved numbers.
"The job growth in New Mexico is because of this governor — in spite of federal policies, in spite of the administration," he said.