In his role as head of the National Governors Association, Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) pushed back Monday against the notion that the White House will determine when states should lift restrictions meant to stop the spread of COVID-19 and pressed the federal government instead for financial relief.
Hogan appeared on CNN Monday afternoon, hours after President Trump tweeted that it would be his decision when to reopen states.
“It’s not my understanding of the Constitution,” Hogan said in a response to Anderson Cooper on CNN. “…Look, we’ll be discussing with the team at the federal level, some of their thoughts and ideas. There are some awful smart people at the federal level like Dr. [Deborah] Birx and Dr. [Anthony] Fauci, who I’m sure will be weighing in about whether or not it’s time to reopen and how we might go about doing that in the safe way, and we’d love to have the president’s cooperation.”
But, Hogan said, governors made the decisions to take action in their states and they will be the ones to make the ultimate decision on when to reopen sectors within their borders.
“We took the tough decisions to shut things down and to put in place these tough social distancing practices, which are having an impact on the economy, and we need that help from the federal government so we can help get the economy back on track when it’s safe to do so,” Hogan said.
During a teleconference with the White House on Monday, Hogan pressed for a $500 billion federal relief package to help balance state budgets, which have seen dramatic revenue losses and increased need for programs.
A previous federal relief package dedicated $150 billion to help states cope with new expenses related to the coronavirus response, but cannot be used to address lost revenue. On Friday, Maryland Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot (D) released a report predicting that the state could lose as much as $2.8 billion in anticipated revenues before the end of the fiscal year.
Hogan said the additional federal funding could help states jumpstart their economies at the right time.
“I think we’ve got some support, at least generally, from the administration to try to help get the states and the governors more help,” Hogan said. “And in Congress, it’s sort of tied up. We’re just hoping they could put aside partisan differences and get this done for the American people.”
On Monday, the governors of six northeastern states, including two Maryland neighbors ― New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware and Pennsylvania ― announced a regional collaboration when it comes to reopening their states, emphasizing that they have the power to make those decisions.
Hogan said on CNN that the regional pact was “a really good idea,” but his administration did not say whether Maryland would move forward in cooperation with any other state when it comes to lifting measures here. Governors in California, Washington and Oregon also indicated Monday they would have a coordinated reopening plan.
In many of his public appearances since the COVID-19 outbreak, Hogan has spoken in general terms about “the Capital region,” and has spoken regularly with Virginia Gov. Ralph S. Northam (D) and Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser (D).
Hogan said discussions with scientists, doctors and the business community will guide when Maryland lifts its restrictions.
Asked by Cooper whether he would err on the side of public health or economic issues when it comes to making reopening decisions, Hogan said it’s a “terrible position” to be in.
“Nobody wants to hurt the economy and put people out of work. But mainly, we’re talking about saving lives and the difference between tens of thousands of people dying or bringing that down,” Hogan said. “…We’ve got to listen to the doctors and scientists. We’ve also got to be really concerned about getting people to help that they need and getting our economy back on track, but doing so in a gradual and safe manner, when it’s when it’s when it’s really the right time to do it.”