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LEAVITT TAKES HELM, PROMISES A `STRONGER VOICE’ FOR WEST

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Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt was elected chairman of the Western Governors Association on Tuesday. He promised increased cooperation among the 18 governors in the association and to "raise the rhetoric" about how the federal government treats Western concerns.

Anger over how the West is being treated was seen time and again during this year's four-day meeting in South Lake Tahoe. Governor after governor complained to and about federal officials. Leavitt has already launched his "conference of the states" proposal - where he will take a multiprong approach in paring away the federal government's power, bringing it more into balance with states' rights.In his acceptance speech, Leavitt said that in the coming year of his chairmanship, he will work for a "stronger voice, a better balance and a West that works."

Leavitt said that in 1927, 31 percent of all governmental expenditures came from the federal government. But today, that's 62 percent. "More laws have been passed in Congress in the last 20 years usurping state authority than in the previous 200 years. The West is especially hard hit by federal overregulation. Who will restore balance in our system? Congress? Water will run uphill first. The president? Any Republican or Democratic president must institute any meaningful change through Congress."

The governors cannot look to anyone else, Leavitt said. They and Western legislators must do it themselves, he said.

"The states have been ineffective competitors. No more. We must compete in the courts, compete in the halls of Congress, compete in the forums of public opinion."

As the new chairman, Leavitt will host the 1995 conference. Utah officials are considering Park City as the site.