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Dukakis, Kemp Square Off Over Bush Budget

February 27, 1989

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Echoes of the 1988 presidential campaign reverberated at a meeting of the nation’s governors Monday when former Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis challenged the Bush administration’s commitment to dealing with urban problems.

Jack Kemp, President Bush’s new secretary of housing and urban development, gave the governors an enthusiastic presentation of his plans to attack poverty and homelessness and to help reinvigorate the nation’s cities.

When the former New York congressman finished, the Massachusetts governor who was the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee said ″I applaud″ Kemp’s goals.

″On the other hand,″ he went on, ″as I look over the president’s budget there is a yawning gap between what you’re saying and what’s in there.″

Kemp, who was one of Bush’s rivals for the GOP presidential nomination, cited federal budget problems but also pledged, ″I can assure you that I am going to do everything I can to make sure that there is adequate funding for those programs that work.″

The housing secretary also said, ″I’m going to be tenacious and, indeed, audacious in looking for programs that are not working as well, and where we can save some money.″

″The budget does need some reworking,″ said Dukakis, who carried only 10 states in the November election. He cited the administration’s proposal to cut back the Community Development Block Grant program, which he said local governments use to attract private investment in housing and other development projects.

Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and William Bennett, Bush’s choice to lead the government’s anti-drug efforts, also appeared before the governors, telling them the administration is committed to dealing with the drug problem.

″To achieve what President Bush has expressed as a goal of a kinder and gentler America, we’re going to have to get rougher and tougher with some Americans,″ said Thornburgh. ″Those who are engaged in drug trafficking and drug-related violence are going to have to be focused on if we are going to have safer streets and safer communities.″

Bennett, the former secretary of education, said, ″In some places the problem is nothing short of ferocious.″

But, he went on, ″we have seen a remarkable shift in public attitudes.″ That shift has shown that the public ″is very serious about this issue″ and prepared to accept strong measures to combat drugs, said Bennett.

William K. Reilly, the new director of the Environmental Protection Agency, told the governors that enforcement of environmental laws and regulations ″is at the heart of the EPA mission. It gives vigor, effectiveness and vitality and reality to all else that we do. It will have our highest priority.″

On a matter of particular concern to governors who have nuclear weapons facilities in their states, Reilly said his agency would direct enforcement at governmental facilities as well as at private industry.

He also told the governors that dealing with pollution ″is going to require changes, in habits, in lifestyle choices, from all households in the country eventually, I think.″

He cited programs under way in some communities that require people to separate waste to help in recycling.

At a discussion on caring for children, the governors heard from a panel of teen-agers from Arkansas.

When Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas asked their views on how to reduce teen- age pregancies, two of the young people recommended more education while rejecting proposals for distributing birth control materials.

Then Jerrold Culp from Lee Senior High School in Marianna drew laughter from the governors when he said, ″In my area I think we just need something else to do.″

On the problem of school dropouts, Courtney Robinson of Sheridan High School in Sheridan told the governors that ″schools need to be more personalized.″

″Some students feel isolated; some students feel detached,″ she said. ″Students’ lives have to be touched.″

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