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During a meeting on Friday, CSA's legislative policy committee (LPC) approved a policy statement that endorses the principles of Governor Brewer's five point-plan. The Governor seeks to work with the legislature to enact a multi-year strategy to return the state to fiscal solvency, while meeting critical constituent needs.
Summing up the LPC discussion, CSA President and Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson said, "Arizona county officials acted quickly to cut spending and manage for a prolonged economic downturn. Though tough decisions lie ahead, the conservative financial strategies we've implemented prepare us to provide constituent services within a structurally balanced budget. Given our close ties with the state, it is absolutely critical for the state to pursue a path to fiscal solvency. Governor Brewer's plan provides the roadmap, and we believe it is crucial that she and the legislature collaborate to incorporate sound management principles as they balance the FY10 budget."
The preliminary plans approved by House and Senate committees include millions of dollars in county government funds. The House plan required a transfer of $86 million from Pima and Maricopa counties, and the Senate plan shifts over $106 million in county money to fund K-12 education. Other options on the table include a proposal to make counties fund all of the growth in the Arizona Long Term Care System and myriad fund sweeps that affect the state-mandated programs counties administer.
Current legislative budget proposals use an array of maneuvers to balance the budget, including payment rollovers and federal stimulus money. As the policy statement notes, "both legislative plans leave more than a $2.2 billion dollar structural shortfall in FY11 and contain few provisions to reform major cost drivers or the revenue structure upon which priority activities depend. Without structural reforms and a path to solvency, there will be elevated pressure to divert county resources to state general fund operations, further debilitating counties' ability to perform our local duties."
To view the policy statement, click here.
At the May board meeting, the CSA Board of Directors approved a letter asking Arizona's congressional delegation to support H.R. 2209, a federal measure supported by the National Association of Counties that would allow people incarcerated in county jails but not convicted to continue to be eligible for federal medical benefits.
Currently, a person who otherwise qualifies for Medicare or Medicaid loses those benefits when they are held in a county jail, even if they have yet to be tried. This requires counties to pay the entire cost of health care for those inmates--a heavy fiscal burden in already challenging economic times.
The bill, sponsored by Representative Alcee Hastings (D-Florida) and co-sponsored by Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva, would allow a person to remain eligible for federal benefits until they are convicted of a crime. During his opening remarks, Representative Hastings said "Stripping inmates of Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP and SSI benefits also violates the presumption of innocence which is at the heart of our criminal justice system. The failure to distinguish between persons who are awaiting disposition of charges and persons who have been duly convicted goes against the foundational tenets of our justice system."
The bill has been introduced in the House and assigned to Ways and Means and Energy
and Commerce. It has not yet been heard in committee.
In a move to save money and energy, Navajo County has approved a comprehensive energy efficiency and conservation strategy. The strategy is a comprehensive, long-term plan that analyzes energy use in government buildings and other county facilities and develops ways to reduce energy use. It was approved by the Navajo County Board of Supervisors at their May 12 meeting.
The strategy includes a range of energy-saving measures, from simple strategies like turning off non-essential lighting and keeping temperatures closely regulated to more complex initiatives like installing solar panels on the roof of the Health Department building in Show Low.
Adopting an energy efficiency and conservation strategy is an essential first step to applying for federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants (EECBG), included in the federal stimulus package. The grant application requires a strategy to be in place before a county can be awarded grant funds, although some funding is available for technical consulting to help develop a strategy.
Navajo is slated to receive $473,000 in a direct allocation of EECBG funds. Nine of the other largest Arizona counties will also receive direct allocations, and the five remaining counties can apply for competitive grant funding.
A special session on school vouchers consumed most of the Legislature's time this week. A plan emerged on Thursday that would allow corporations and individuals to claim tax credits for contributions to a program that funds vouchers for disabled and foster children.
The legislature heard the following proposals with county impacts this week:
HB 2335: improvement districts; renewable energy (Mason) passed House COW.
HB 2570: fire districts; boundaries; merger; consolidation (Pratt) passed House COW.
HB 2258: consumer fireworks (Biggs)
HB 2101: county supervisors; membership (Williams)
HB 2253: public legal notices; committee (Jones).
Click here to watch legislative hearings live, or click here to view archived video of committees. (Agendas are subject to change; visit the legislative calendar for updates on daily calendars.)
The legislature will consider the following proposals with county impact next week:
HB 2329: solar energy; permit fees (Boone) will be heard during House Third Read.
Visit the CSA Calendar of Events at www.countysupervisors.org/calendar