CASPER — Gov. Mark Gordon was invited to a surprise working lunch with President Donald Trump at the White House to discuss “workforce freedom and mobility,” the president’s office said Thursday.
The meeting, which included seven other governors, was meant to discuss “eliminating workforce barriers and expanding economic mobility for American workers,” by looking at ways the federal government could partner with states on areas like occupational licensing reform, child care, paid family leave and vocational skills training, according to White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere.
Attendees included Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta — who visited Wyoming earlier this year with Sen. Mike Enzi — as well as Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, Senior Counselor Kellyanne Conway, whose firing was urged by a federal office Thursday for violations of the Hatch Act, and the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who advises the president on workforce development.
Joining Gordon was a bipartisan group of governors including Doug Ducey of Arizona, Brian Kemp of Georgia, David Ige of Hawaii, Kim Reynolds of Iowa, Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania and Bill Lee of Tennessee.
The event was not on the governor’s public schedule for Thursday. According to a spokesperson in Gordon’s office, the event was a “last-minute thing,” and the White House asked his office to not publicize the visit until Thursday.
At the lunch’s start — which was open to the press — Gordon thanked Trump for his “support of energy,” and making sure Wyoming was part of the conversation moving forward on policies addressing coal, oil and natural gas, wind and solar. Gordon also brought up the subject of access to trade markets abroad, something the governor wrote to the president about in a letter last week urging the approval of the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.
“Everybody wants it, and hopefully we can get support for it very fast if the Democrats in Congress — Nancy Pelosi — they have to put the bill forward,” said Trump, in his response to Gordon. “We’ll see what happens.”
During the rest of the public portion of the meeting — which lasted roughly 20 minutes — Trump and Acosta discussed the impacts of occupational licensing regulations on the national economy. Studies have shown the high cost of licensing and the time of training for professions like cosmetologists and realtors can lead to high levels of turnover. In recent years, momentum has been building in numerous states for reform to those regulations.
Deregulating the licensing process is largely a state issue. But the Trump administration — continuing work from the Obama administration — said it would help to ease the process for states, helping to remove what it sees as a hindrance to growth.
“Anything you can do, we’re going to make it very easy for you to do very quickly,” Trump said.
In prepared remarks to close the public portion of the meeting, Gordon thanked the president for pulling together the bipartisan group of governors, and emphasized the importance of coal to the state’s economy.
“Wyoming is the nation’s leading coal producer, and has among the largest reserves of coal in the world and, certainly, the cleanest,” Gordon said. “The president has been a strong supporter of coal and of advancing new technologies that support carbon capture and sequestration that is critical in addressing climate change and can provide a bridge to a cleaner, healthier future and great, high-paying jobs. Progress on these fronts is imperative for Wyoming, and I look forward to working with you on this.”
Gordon also touted the state’s efforts to expand its vocational workforce and said he was “glad” the president was following Wyoming’s lead on workforce licensing, highlighting its status as “the lowest-licensed state” in the country.
“I was waiting for that,” joked Trump.
Gordon’s lunch with the president caps off an active week out of the state, which included several days in Vail, Colorado, to attend the Western Governors Association’s annual meeting. The White House also had a presence at that meeting, with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson both in attendance.
While in Washington, Gordon also met with Sen. Enzi, who posted a Tweet about the pair’s meeting.
By Nick Reynolds
Casper Star-Tribune Via Wyoming News Exchange