First governor from NYS to take gavel in NGA history; first ‘Big State’ governor to serve as chair in nearly 50 years
Cuomo: ‘Next year's agenda is not really a question of discretion, but rather the dictation of reality. Our agenda is: “America's Recovery and Revival." ’
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday was unanimously voted to serve as chair of the National Governors Association during the virtual 2020 summer meeting. Cuomo, who will become the longest-serving governor in the country next year, is also the first governor from New York to become NGA's chair – and the first “big state” governor to take the gavel in nearly 50 years.
In his remarks, Cuomo laid out his agenda for the NGA – “America's Recovery and Revival” – focused on tackling COVID-19 and the economic recovery from it.
Earlier in the day, he met with the NGA executive committee and addressed the conference in a governors' only plenary session.
A copy of Cuomo’s remarks as prepared are below:
Let's give another big thank you to (Maryland) Gov. (Larry) Hogan. We give you a virtual round of applause. Gov. Hogan has been a friend to all of us over this impossible past year and I look forward to relying on him for his continued counsel as I take the gavel. I also look forward to working with our Vice Chairman Gov. Asa Hutchinson. We all thank you Gov. Hutchinson for agreeing to serve.
What should the NGA agenda be for the next year? It should adopt the agenda most relevant to the governors, and I think we all know what that is. Frankly my friends, I don't think we have that many options. Next year's agenda is not really a question of discretion, but rather the dictation of reality. Our agenda is: “America's Recovery and Revival.”
First, we must manage the COVID virus until a vaccine is developed and we need the federal government to work with us in that effort.
Second, we will need to deal with the undeniable consequences and effects of COVID. The economic damage it has done as well as the critical public health care needs that it exposed and highlighted.
And third, all this in the context of a new chapter in the federal/state relationship. While I'm sure none of us wanted to be in this position of dealing with COVID, the last six months have highlighted the importance and capacity of state governments and the need for a reformulated, redefined federal partnership especially in this coming year where not only do we need historic pandemic-related relief funding, but we also have several critical legislative reauthorizations expiring.
As we gather today, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that COVID is a problem that affects every state in this nation. This is a battle for all of us. And we know that we must resolve this virus together.
That unless COVID is defeated everywhere, it won't be defeated anywhere.
COVID will ricochet across this country, bouncing from state to state, and the only course forward – in both our state's self-interest and our collective interest – is to lock arms and to leave this virus no place to spread.
We all know the weapons needed for the war we must wage.
We need unprecedented testing capacity and the supply chain to support it.
We need contact tracing, we need stockpiles of PPE, medicines, supplies, and we need an emergency surge capacity. We need financial support for our beleaguered hospital systems. This nation has seen MERS, SARS, Ebola, swine flu and now COVID.
No one can tell us the name of the next virus or bacteria to attack us. But everyone tells us that it's just a matter of time. Let's institutionalize what we have learned so we are better prepared for the next invasion and let us design and implement a new public health system for this nation, because we just cannot go through this again.
The COVID challenge goes even further. As we just heard from our Vice Chairman Gov. Asa Hutchinson, our schools are facing unprecedented challenges. They must now educate our students and keep them safe from this deadly virus. It is an entirely new undertaking and they need federal support. None of this is easy, but all of it is achievable.
At the same time, we must deal with the secondary effects of COVID. It has wreaked havoc on this nation's economy and you can quantify the damage by adding together the jobs lost, and the deficits, of all of our states.
All major economists agree that, without providing financial assistance for state and local governments, the economy will not rebound as quickly as it would otherwise. Fed Chairman Powell, former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, economists from all persuasions agree. The NGA is united in telling our Washington colleagues that they must include $500 billion in unrestricted state funding in the upcoming COVID response legislation. It is a top NGA priority.
This is also the moment to implement the agenda the NGA developed last year under Gov. Hogan's leadership. This is the moment to invest in infrastructure. We need to reinvigorate the economy and we need to replace aging infrastructure. We have all talked about it for decades. This is the moment to do it. The federal government should provide the funds and the states will build it.
And finally, the federal/state relationship has always been a dynamic tension since it was first embodied in our Constitution by our founding fathers. There are checks and balances and that is as it should be. But there has never been a moment where state governments have been more instrumental in the lives of the people of this country. State governments are now in the forefront, and it is a new chapter in the governance of this country.
This coming year, states are not only laboratories of democracy – we will also be the engines of economic renewal and the innovators of a new public health system.
There is tremendous possibility in the nation's recognition of the full potential of state governments. And we are committed to achieving progress, that is the essence of our role as governors.
As governors, we all know there is no red and blue. All our states are both. We understand that we govern for the red, white and blue.
This next year will be challenging for sure, but all battles are hard and ours could not have a more noble or righteous purpose. I'm honored to be standing beside all of you as we lead this nation forward. With that, I conclude the 112th NGA annual meeting.