State lawmakers addressed important priorities of Arizona’s county governments during the 2019 legislative session, including providing close to $350,000 in annual relief to Gila County. On August 19, the County Supervisors Association (CSA) briefed the Gila County Board of Supervisors about budget issues and new legislation that directly impacts county operations. CSA Director Craig Sullivan reported, “It was a good year for counties working with the state. Governor Ducey and legislators approved the financial items counties asked for and problematic bills were either defeated or amended to respond to county concerns.”
In the state budget for fiscal year 2020, state lawmakers provided relief to the county general fund by including two important county priorities. For rural counties, the state eliminated a policy put in place during the recession to charge counties for a portion of the state department of juvenile corrections. This saves Gila County close to $100,000 annually. Also, the state dedicated $250,000 annually to each rural county to defray some of the costs of the elected officials’ retirement plan. This plan was permanently closed in 2013 and the courts have ruled that the remaining debt is a constitutionally protected obligation that must be paid. Since counties have no control over the debt or the policies that created it, counties requested an on-going state commitment to defray the local costs.
Gila County Chairman Woody Cline, stated “I appreciate all the hard work CSA did to advocate for the financial relief. And, I am grateful to our legislators and Governor Ducey for supporting our requests. This will save Gila County close to $350,000 this year. And, if the state will maintain its commitment to help with the pension debt, it will save our county more than $6 million over the term of the debt.”
Sullivan also reported that of the 1,318 bills introduced this session approximately 830 proposals were relevant to counties. He said that a main purpose of his office is to analyze these proposals and to educate lawmakers about what they mean for county operations and costs. Of all the bills introduced, 320 were ultimately signed into law, of which 210 are relevant to county government. CSA has a summary document of these bills at www.countysupervisors.org
To help evaluate pending legislation, each county assigns a supervisor to CSA’s Legislative Policy Committee, or LPC. The fifteen member LPC meets weekly to provide input and direction to CSA staff. Gila County’s representative is Supervisor Tommie Martin, who also served as president of CSA in 2017.
During the briefing, Supervisor Martin stated, “I think counties working together at CSA is absolutely critical. This year, there were bills on water, public works, taxation, elections and many others. Legislators need to hear from us and CSA does a great job of amplifying our voice at the state capitol.”
Looking to the 2020 legislative session, Sullivan said CSA will approve its legislative agenda in October. However, he expects the priorities to include requests for increased transportation investment and full state funding of the legislatively mandated Presidential Preference Election. CSA will also work to complete the elimination of mandated payments by large counties to fund the state department of juvenile corrections and to ensure this cost is not shifted again to all counties.
CSA is a non-partisan, inter-governmental office of the 15 counties.
Based in Phoenix, the state’s 61 county supervisors serve as its board of directors and the association serves as a forum to address important issues facing local constituents, share information and connect with policy-makers at the state and federal level.