County supervisors want to stop cost-shifting, increase transportation funding in 2016

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County officials from across the state met for the 11th Annual Legislative Summit of the County Supervisors Association Oct. 13-15  in Lake Havasu City. At the event, local leaders established a county policy agenda for the 2016 state legislative session.

“We had a very productive series of policy deliberations in Lake Havasu, and we are grateful to Mohave County for hosting the CSA Legislative Summit this year,” CSA President and Maricopa County Supervisor Clint Hickman said in a press release. “Counties and the state are partners in serving Arizonans.  It is vital for state leaders to know what tools county officials need to do our job, so that we can work together to save taxpayer dollars, maintain our roadways and improve public safety.”

CSA President-elect and Coconino County Supervisor Mandy Metzger said, “County-elected officials appreciate the challenges state lawmakers have faced in recent years.  Unfortunately, some state decisions have burdened county operations, and in some cases caused increases in property taxes.  CSA’s policy agenda reflects the compelling need for the state to stop funding state agencies with county tax dollars, increase investment in roads and highways, and control the ballooning costs of Arizona’s public safety retirement plans. We look forward to working with Gov. Ducey and the legislature to address these important priorities.”
“This past state budget was incredibly difficult for Pinal County and our communities, much of the problem was due to state cost shifts and increases in state mandated cost drivers.  CSA’s policy recommendations would provide meaningful relief for our area,” Pinal County Supervisor and CSA Second Vice-president Anthony Smith said.  “My fellow board members and I look forward to working with our legislative delegation on these important issues.”
During the work session at the legislative summit,  CSA Executive Director Craig Sullivan explained that since fiscal year 2008 state action has cost counties an estimated $495 million and shifted a portion of costs for four state agencies to the county general fund.  He also reported that the state has swept nearly $1 billion in transportation resources since 2000 and has not acted to address the diminishing purchase power of the state’s 18 cent gas tax, a user fee that has not been adjusted since 1991.  Mr. Sullivan also described the crisis in the state’s public safety pension program, which includes county public safety personnel.  The system is only 50 percent funded with approximately $6.2 billion of unfunded liability.
After deliberations, the CSA board of directors unanimously approved the top state financial priorities of the association. Specifically, CSA will call on the governor and state legislators to take the following actions in the fiscal year 2016-17 state budget:

•Prevent any new shifts of the costs of state programs to the county taxpayer.

•Reform the Public Safety Personnel Retirement System to create a viable, long-term funding and benefit structure that addresses the needs of law enforcement and fire professionals while protecting the interests of tax payers.

•Eliminate legislative mandates for counties to fund state agencies, specifically the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, the Arizona Department of Revenue, the Arizona State Hospital, and the Department of Public Safety.

•Increase investment in transportation by eliminating state diversion of local government road dollars, pursue policies that improve efficient utilization of existing road dollars and identify and enact revenue enhancements for the existing transportation revenue distribution system, known as the Highway User Revenue Fund, or HURF.
•Work with local stakeholders to find a mutually beneficial solution to the recently enacted 1 percent constitutional property tax cap liability shift, which shifted most of the state liability to the local primary property taxing jurisdictions.
•Reestablish the counties’ share of lottery revenue in statute to support county operations in fiscal year 2016-17, a revenue counties received for more than 20 years, until it was eliminated in fiscal year 2010-11.
•Eliminate, fully fund or require political parties to pay for the costs associated with the state-mandated Presidential Preference Election.  Current law requires county funding.
“We recognize the challenges that the legislature faced during this past legislative session, but we cannot continue to shoulder new cost shifts on top of the many damaging policies and shifts enacted during the depths of the recession.  The financial priorities that we adopted represent sound public policy and will deliver results for our local communities. We are hopeful that they will be addressed in the state budget,” said Supervisor Hickman.
In addition to the state budget proposals, CSA also considered 24 county-submitted statutory proposals.  Of those, 16 were included in CSA’s agenda for the 2016 legislative session, including proposals designed to improve transparency for county taxpayers, allow counties to provide services to their communities through public-private partnerships, ensure adequate legal counsel for juvenile dependency cases, and reduce pension liability.
CSA staff will begin briefing legislators on these matters in preparation for the 2016 session.
CSA is a non-partisan forum for Arizona’s 61 county supervisors to address important issues facing local constituents, providing a mechanism to share information and to advance a proactive state and federal policy agenda.
For more information about the Pinal County Board of Supervisors, visit Pinal County’s website.
For more information about the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, visit Maricopa County’s website.

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