Gov. Doug Ducey joined other Republican governors who told an appreciative crowd of conservatives Thursday that the Trump administration presents a chance for state and local officials to take the reins back from the federal government.

Ducey joined Republican Govs. Matt Bevin of Kentucky, Sam Brownback of Kansas and Scott Walker of Wisconsin to tell thousands of excited “patriots” at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference how states are “reclaiming America’s promise.”

“We can really make a difference at the state level,” Ducey said during the morning session, then proceeded to explain his success in reducing taxes and balancing the state budget – a theme echoed by most of the others on the panel.

All four governors also said that states need to be the laboratories of government innovation, something they hope will happen under the Trump administration, which they expect will put more control in the hands of state and local governments.

“That is where federalism was intended to be in the first place,” Bevin said.

Many of the governors also encouraged conservatives to continue advocating for their beliefs and communicating with their governments.

“They’re (Republican lawmakers) going to hear from the left, they need to hear from you,” Walker said.

The crowd appeared energized by the Trump administration, which was represented at CPAC by a number of high-ranking White House and Cabinet officials Thursday – with appearances by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence scheduled for Friday and Saturday, respectively.

“It’s exciting to see so many young people engaged and want to be a part of the cause of a more limited government, a free-market economy and supporting policies and personal responsibility around the country,” Ducey said.

He said he is waiting to see how things shape up under the Trump administration after the tumult of the first weeks settles down. But he is encouraged by the presence of Pence, the former governor of Indiana, who Ducey said understands the impact that too much regulation and red tape can have on states.

In wide-ranging comments during and after the event, Ducey also echoed other speakers’ call for smaller, less-intrusive government.

“You can’t change the world unless you can pay your rent, the government has to live within its means,” Ducey said. “All of our citizens have to do that, all of our small businesses have to do that, there’s no reason government can’t do that.”

When questioned by the session moderator, Ducey briefly discussed, an Arizona initiative that invites local business owners to voice their opinions regarding current state regulations that govern their businesses.

Ducey explained later that Arizona is looking to reduce and eliminate 500 regulations that are “unnecessary” or do not “protect consumer safety.”

“These things (regulations) are all over government, at the state level and certainly at the federal level,” Ducey said. “Arizona wants to be the leading state, most innovative state, in getting rid of what’s unnecessary in terms of regulation.”

Ducey and several of the governors said welfare would be better handled by the states. He said that Arizona has thousands of people out of work, but that there are also thousands of jobs within the state that need to be filled.

“The federal government has created a poverty trap: They’re incenting people not to work rather than putting together programs to get them back into the workforce,” Ducey said after the event. “I know we can do a better job of that at the state level.”

By Kendra Penningroth, Cronkite News