Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan ended his year-long tenure as head of the National Governors Association on Wednesday.
As chairman of the group, the Republican governor acted as a de facto spokesperson for the nation’s governors during the coronavirus pandemic, appearing regularly on cable TV shows.
It was during an NGA event in Washington in February that Hogan arranged for the governors to be briefed on the coronavirus by top federal health officials. Hogan has said that briefing led him to expand the state’s planning for the virus.
He’s pressed the federal government — often without much success — for help in acquiring tests, protective equipment and financial support. He’s occasionally elicited scorn from President Donald Trump for calling out false information from the president.
In his farewell speech during a virtual meeting Wednesday, Hogan touted some of the his coronavirus successes with the NGA: getting federal funding to support National Guard deployments, pressing the president to invoke the Defense Production Act to boost supplies and lobbying for flexibility in how some of the federal CARES Act money is used.
“Responding to this crisis has shown more than ever the vital role of governors and of the NGA,” Hogan said.
During “the most daunting challenge of our lifetime,” Hogan said the governors have stepped up and led the nation in a bipartisan fashion.
Hogan leaves his NGA position with one key initiative still unresolved: A request for $500 billion dollars in additional aid for state governments.
While the CARES Act provided aid to state and local governments to pay for specific parts of the coronavirus response, Hogan and the governors have asked for more unrestricted money to help them fill budget gaps caused by the economic crisis. Congress so far has failed to act on the request.
Hogan went into his year leading the governors with an entirely different agenda in mind. He selected infrastructure as his key initiative, and held meetings to promote the idea of public-private partnerships.
He also traveled to Australia last September to meet with government and transportation officials, a trip that was paid for jointly by the NGA and the state of Maryland.
At Wednesday’s online meeting, Hogan pretended to hand a gavel to the new NGA Chairman, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as the two appeared on a split screen.
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Cuomo said it was obvious that his focus for the next year will be on the pandemic. He’s deeming his official agenda “America’s Recovery and Revival.”
Cuomo, a Democrat, said governors face multiple tasks: managing the virus until a vaccine is widely available, dealing with the economic consequences of the pandemic, strengthening the nation’s public health system, finding financial support for “beleaguered” hospitals and supporting public schools.
Cuomo said Hogan’s focus on infrastructure from last year can play a role in the nation’s economic recovery. Infrastructure projects that are funded by the federal government and built by the states can reinvigorate the economy, Cuomo said.
The pandemic has shown the importance of state government in Americans’ lives, and this could lead to a new chapter in federal-state relations, Cuomo said.
“All battles are hard and ours could not have a more noble or righteous purpose,” he said.