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As ever, governors are wary of New Federalism

Even before the National Governors Conference formally opened here this week, it was clear that the nation's chief state executives are in no mood to adopt the President's New Federalism plan.

The biggest snag is President Reagan's insistence that welfare programs be returned to the states.

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The chairman of the governors' executive committee, Republican Gov. Richard A. Snelling, on arrival here, expressed pessimism over prospects that this conference would help to implement the President's plan.

The Vermont governor said that ''the governors cannot support a plan that fails to provide for the medical needy, discourages adequate state welfare assistance, or ignores differences in state burdens.'' However, Richard Williamson, White House liaison with the governors, says he will still explore ways here of finding some kind of a compromise plan for sharing federal programs with the states and localities.