WASHINGTON—National Governors Association (NGA) Chair Delaware Gov. Jack Markell and Vice Chair Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin delivered the association’s first-ever State of the States address today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
The governors focused on the current conditions and challenges faced by states and discussed the governors’ collective vision for 2013. Markell also highlighted several gubernatorial successes from the past year.
"We cannot afford to wait when it comes to moving the needle on jobs and business growth. In this economy, governors are keenly aware of the obstacles job seekers face every day," Markell said. "Much of our effort is focused on removing these obstacles. For example, forty separate federal programs are providing workforce services that focus on employment and occupational skills. We want these critical programs to continue, but we want the federal government to give states more flexibility to implement innovative state-based workforce systems - programs that would be better able to respond to job seekers' and businesses' needs."
Markell noted that while each governor has his or her own unique circumstances, each must facilitate job growth, improve schools and be financially responsible. He pointed out that uncertainty from Washington and the reality of shrinking federal support hurts both state economies and state budgets.
“As much as we do in our states, our economies are tightly linked to the national economy. As a result, our states’ prosperity depends, in no small measure, on the ability of our public servants in Washington to come to terms on a path forward,” said Markell.
He continued by saying that one of the largest uncertainties concerns elements of the “fiscal cliff” that were postponed or left out of the recently enacted American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.
Markell also highlighted job creation, noting his NGA Chair’s initiative, A Better Bottom Line: Employing Individuals with Disabilities, in addition to infrastructure, the nation’s tax code and education as priority issues for governors.
Fallin focused her remarks on the importance of a strong state-federal partnership, noting that governors are “committed to a vibrant and strong collaboration with Congress and the administration to maintain and promote a balanced federal system.”
She highlighted four points governors have asked the president and Congress to keep in mind when addressing sequestration and deficit reduction:
- Federal reforms should produce savings for both the federal government and states;
- Deficit reduction should not be accomplished by merely shifting costs to states or imposing unfunded mandates;
- States should be given increased flexibility to create efficiencies and achieve results; and
- Congress should not impose maintenance of effort provisions on states as a condition of funding.
“Essentially, all of these points can be boiled down to two words: flexibility and partnership,” said Fallin. “We need the flexibility to take care of the unique needs of our citizens and the unique challenges facing our states…and states need to be treated as partners, not underlings, as we work to implement good public policy. As we told the president, reducing the deficit simply by shifting costs to states is not indicative of a good partnership.”
Fallin also highlighted health care and its costs as a critical challenge for the country. She noted NGA’s new virtual resource center as a tool to help navigate the various complexities of health care policy.
“This website will provide policymakers with expert analysis and best practices already adopted in states that are working to improve health care access, affordability and quality,” Fallin said.
Fallin outlined NGA’s initiative to tackle the fastest-growing drug problem in the country: the abuse of prescription drugs. The initiative is co-chaired by Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and seeks to develop and implement comprehensive and coordinated strategies to reduce prescription drug abuse.
Finally, Fallin noted that governors remain committed partners in the maintenance of the nation’s armed forces—especially the men and women of our National Guard. The National Guard plays a critical role responding to emergencies here at home as well as fighting alongside our active duty military overseas.
Fallin said, “Governors will continue to work with the Department of Defense and Congress to better leverage the National Guard’s cost-effectiveness and high level of experience while preserving military capability for the nation because the safety and security of our citizens is crucial.”
She concluded by highlighting governors’ work to develop a broadband network for public safety communications and the creation of an NGA Resource Center for State Cybersecurity led by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. Fallin also noted the work of 22 states to convert state automobile fleets to natural gas vehicles.
To see a copy of the speech or view video, visit: http://www.nga.org/cms/stateofthestates. The nation’s governors will gather for their annual Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C., from Feb. 22-25, 2013.