Thought Leadership Thursday
An Unprecedented Year of Unprecedented Advocacy
Thought Leadership Thursday Article
I know it’s far from original. In fact, the cliché may have become a punchline. But I’m going to say it anyway: 2020 was a truly unprecedented year. In almost every way.
From the public health crisis caused by the ongoing pandemic, to the ensuing economic fallout that pushed many of our states into making extreme budget decisions, 2020 has been a lot to deal with. At the same time, this year was also unprecedented for NAST advocacy — out of necessity, but also thanks to the leadership and agility of our organization. One of the bright spots of 2020 is how Treasurers and staff worked together to advocate for the policies that will help our states become more resilient no matter the climate. We have all lived up to the NAST mantra of “getting the job done.”
When you’re wearing multiple hats and navigating your state through crisis, it is easy to take for granted the ground we’ve traversed already. So, as your outgoing Legislative Committee chair, I thought I’d use this first Thought Leader Thursday in December to provide a recap of our recent progress. While I wish I had the opportunity to brief you all in person, I hope this piece will serve as the usual recap to an unusual year.
We started the year with an ambitious advocacy agenda. Our platform featured the ABLE Age Adjustment Act, improvements to the treatment of 529 proceeds in the calculation of FAFSA aid, and an initiative to finally pass the Unclaimed Savings Bond Act and reinstate tax-exempt advance refunding bonds. By mid-March, however, the outbreak of COVID-19 and a market slowdown pivoted our collective focuses to the unfolding emergency.
NAST and our members immediately sprung into action with timely and effective engagements to advise the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve on emergency facilities to stabilize critical markets, we worked closely with Congress and the Administration to pass and carry out CARES Act stimulus programs, and NAST helped lead the charge to appropriate additional funding to address critical state budget and revenue shortfalls. We were able to accomplish all this while continuing to build bipartisan co-sponsorship of our core priorities from the beginning of the year.
From a NAST policy front, our Legislative Committee renewed four resolutions related to our priorities. We also passed two new resolutions: one declaring our opposition to the preemption of state authority to set small-dollar lending policies, and another supporting 529 college savings plans to address the mounting student loan debt challenge. And later this month, our membership will review two additional resolutions from the Pension and Investment Trust Committee.
Most of us went to Capitol Hill at our Legislative Conference in February to meet with our Congressional delegations. Many of you were on those late-night calls in March when the markets were in a free-fall. And many of you continued the conversation with your delegations and used your voice to reiterate that states don’t need a handout, they need a strong federal partner. Amidst this work, and perhaps most importantly of all, you kept your day-to-day state finances running throughout the crisis.
In February, when COVID-19 wasn’t a part of our daily conversation, I wrote that “it’s not in spite of our unique differences, but because of them that our shared voice resonates so loudly.” We haven’t accomplished everything. There’s still a lot of advocacy work left to be done next year – additional stimulus being at the top. And we’ve gone 10 months without meeting with each other in person. But, despite the obstacles we face, I believe we are a stronger, more respected, more tightly knit group than we’ve been in recent memory, and it’s because of you all. Thank you for your tireless work.
I wish all of you a safe, healthy and happy holiday season.