PHILADELPHIA – Gov. Edward G. Rendell yesterday hosted a historic meeting of the President-elect and Vice President-elect and more than 40 of the nation’s governors to discuss how they can help President-elect Obama’s efforts to put the economy back on track and put Americans back to work. Gov. Rendell serves as Chairman of the National Governors Association (NGA).
In particular, the governors stressed that they are not asking Washington to solve state budget shortfalls, emphasizing that they must do the hard work to resolve their own fiscal situations.
According to the National Governors Association, 41 states now face serious budget deficits. In Pennsylvania, Gov. Rendell’s administration has, to date, identified $350 million in cuts to help keep the 2008-09 budget balanced while preserving crucial services. The Governor has asked state agency heads to continue to identify additional budget reductions so that the state finishes the year with a balanced budget.
The NGA was unified in its call for the federal government to step up quickly with new funding for infrastructure improvements as a sound strategy to put Americans to work and to improve the nation’s public assets. The governors outlined more than $136 billion in infrastructure projects from bridge and levee repairs, water system upgrades, school construction, transit systems improvements and electricity grid improvements that are critical to the nation’s competitiveness and urgently needed to address rising unemployment levels.
“We were here to share our expertise and express our willingness to help fashion this recovery plan,” Gov. Rendell said. “We also asked that the needs of our citizens be directly addressed by this plan, including extended unemployment insurance, increased Food Stamp resources, more federal action on housing foreclosure and state aid to cover the rising numbers of individuals seeking health care after losing their jobs.
“We support strongly the infrastructure revitalization program; it can be a short-run solution to the economic challenges facing the country. It is the only plan out there that will add jobs to the American economy. It will put Americans back to work, and we believe it can be done quickly.”
Gov. Rendell and other governors discussed a temporary increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage to help states cope with the rising number of unemployed citizens seeking health care coverage from the state.
“Because of the hard economic times, the safety net health care programs that the states administer have faced increased pressure as people lose their jobs. Federal help in addressing the demand for state-subsidized health care will help make sure we don’t have to cut needed services or increase taxes, both of which would have a countercyclical effect on the economy,” Gov. Rendell said.
The President-elect welcomed the governors’ input and called on members of Congress to work in a bipartisan fashion to develop a solid recovery plan.
“I know these are difficult times. We’re going to have to make hard choices in the months ahead about how to invest these tax dollars… the money that we spend is going to be well-spent,” President-elect Obama said. “We’re going to need action, and need action quickly.”