McConnell Is Failing U.S. by Resisting State Aid, Cuomo Says

The U.S. recovery can’t happen if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stifles aid for state and local governments, said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“There is no nation without the states,” the governor said Wednesday during a press briefing at the National Press Club in Washington after meeting with President Donald Trump. “They tend to forget that in this town.”

Cuomo said the meeting wasn’t about politics: “It was about how do we supercharge the reopening, especially in New York, which has been hardest hit.” New York has more than 360,000 cases of Covid-19.

The governor, whose coronavirus briefings have become closely watched nationally, is a leading advocate for more help for states. Unlike the federal government, they must balance their budgets, and steeply falling revenue raises the specter of mass layoffs of public servants.

18,611 in U.S.Most new cases today

-11% Change in MSCI World Index of global stocks since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-1.​049 Change in U.S. treasury bond yield since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-4.​8% Global GDP Tracker (annualized), April

On Wednesday, the governor was critical of McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, and Senator Rick Scott, a Florida Republican, who have resisted an immediate infusion of further aid to state and local governments.

“Pass a piece of legislation that is honorable and decent and does the right thing for all Americans,” the governor said. “Why is that so hard?”

Future Relief

McConnell has said there could be additional aid for states in a future relief package, but it would have to be narrowly focused on expenses directly related to the pandemic. He has repeatedly said his party won’t back additional deficit spending that would let some states escape longstanding budget issues, such as underfunded public-employee pensions.

”If it’s directly related to COVID-19, there may be some additional assistance,” McConnell said Tuesday during an appearance in Kentucky. “But we’re not interested in borrowing money from future generations sent down to states to solve pre-existing problems.”

He and other Republicans also have argued that states still haven’t fully tapped the $150 billion in aid they got in the coronavirus rescue legislation passed in March. Democrats in the House have since passed a $3 trillion relief bill that includes $500 billion for states and another $375 billion for local governments. McConnell and the White House have rejected that plan.

New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and California give the most money to the federal government, while Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, Alabama and Florida get the most, according to Cuomo. The top donors also are the states most affected by the coronavirus, he said.

“You are the ones who have your hand out,” Cuomo said of McConnell and others opposed to more state stimulus. “You are the ones who are taking more than others.”

In a news release, Scott said “Congress will continue to do what is necessary to help our country recover. What we won’t do, as long as I am a member of the U.S. Senate, is use a health crisis and taxpayer money to bail out poorly-run states like Governor Cuomo’s New York.”

Cuomo said he had “a good conversation” with Trump and they discussed the need for infrastructure to create jobs and boost the economy, including Amtrak’s $30 billion Gateway project that includes new rail tunnels between New York and New Jersey. Trump said he would think about Cuomo’s request and the two would talk again next week, according to the governor.

“I have a shovel in the trunk of my car; we’ll start” as soon as New York wins approval, Cuomo said.

The governor said his White House talks included what states should be doing and what role the federal government should play. States are responsible for testing, tracing, their health-care systems and all of the procedures around reopening, Cuomo said. The federal government needs to do its part, by helping states make up for Covid-19 related revenue losses, he said.

“Do you really want to cut schools now?” Cuomo said. “Do you really want to cut hospitals now?”

— With assistance by Joe Sobczyk, and Laura Litvan

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