Long Beach, CA. – The National Association of Counties (NACo) held their Annual Conference this month in Long Beach, California. During the conference, NACo members adopted a new American County Platform, passed resolutions, and announced their 2016/2017 Leadership and Steering Committee Appointments. Supervisor Buster Johnson was named as one of the Vice-Chairs of NACO’s Information Technology Standing Committee, and also had two resolutions adopted as part of NACo’s national American County Platform along with one resolution on Uranium Mining being accepted. According to NACo, their County Platform is their permanent policy documents whereas resolutions must be written and adopted every year. NACo’s IT Standing Committee, originally called NACo’s Cyber Security Task Force, was launched in 2012 as a public/private partnership to protect county government networks and residents from online computer crime. “With today’s advancing technology, it is important that county officials understand the importance of cyber security,” Supervisor Johnson stated. “Counties are a crucial resource when it comes to public information and information sharing which makes it so important for counties to ensure the taxpayer’s information is secure and safe,” Johnson continued. Supervisor Johnson is also a member of NACo’s Public Lands Steering Committee and sponsored two resolutions dealing with Public Lands. The first resolution he sponsored was in support of the Historic Routes Preservation Act, which is a bipartisan bill that would provide an administrative means for the federal government to confirm rights-of-way on public lands administered by the Departments of Interior and Agriculture. NACo’s National County Platform has always taken a stance on supporting the maintenance and enhancement of public access to public lands. Instead of adopting the resolution, NACo included the language for the resolution in their overall County Platform. “This is a major accomplishment,” Johnson stated. “Not all resolutions end up apart of the overall County platform. By adding into the platform, it shows that the overall voice of counties throughout the nation support preserving our historical right of ways,” Johnson continued. Another resolutions sponsored by Supervisor Johnson, which passed unanimously during the Conference, was in support of uranium activities. In 2012, the Secretary of Interior, withdrew one million acres of the nation’s highest grade uranium ores from mineral entry in Northern Arizona. According to a report by the American Clean Energy Resource Trust, this was a $29 billion hit to local economies in Mohave County and in Southern Utah. “This ban took away much needed jobs from our area. Uranium mining would have brought in nearly 1,078 new jobs to the Arizona strip area with a $40 million annual payroll,” Johnson explained. Included in the NACo platform was also language requiring full coordination with locally affected interests when it came to national monument designations and full funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. “Without full funding for PILT, Arizona counties will be forced to shift federal responsibilities to local tax payers or drastically cut essential services such as education, law enforcement, and road maintenance,” Johnson stated. During FY15, Mohave County received roughly … Continue Reading →
Washington, D.C. – Supervisor Buster Johnson was among nearly 30 elected officials from around the country who were asked by the National Association of Counties (NACo) to participate in their Washington D.C. Leadership Fly-In. As President of the Arizona Association of Counties (AACo), Supervisor Johnson represented all fifteen counties in Arizona when he met with congressional leaders and officials from the U.S. Department of Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to highlight the importance of the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program and what it means for Arizona counties. “Federal lands in Arizona make up roughly 42.1% of the state,” Supervisor Johnson stated. “Without PILT funding, Arizona counties would be forced to shift federal responsibilities to local tax payers or drastically cut essential services such as education, law enforcement, and road maintenance,” Johnson continued. During the Fly-In, Supervisor Johnson and Supervisor Liz Archuleta from Coconino County met with some of Arizona’s Congressional delegation along with Speaker of the House John Boehner and Congressional leaders from Arkansas and Mississippi to give testimony and real life examples of why PILT is so important for Arizona. “Several counties, such as Greenlee County where PILT represents one-third of their general fund, require these funds to balance their budget. Without it they would essentially go bankrupt,” Johnson stated. Federal regulations require counties to provide services in the form of road maintenance, law enforcement and search and rescue on federal lands. “Because counties are not allowed to collect property taxes on these lands nor allowed to let private economic development occur, the PILT payments help counties offset those loses,” Johnson explained. During fiscal year 2014, which is set to end September 30, Arizona counties received over $34 million in PILT revenue. Supervisor Johnson encouraged Congressional leaders during the fly-in to include a reauthorization for PILT in the 2015 Appropriation Bill, while at the same time expressed the need that a permanent funding source for PILT must be found. “Counties shouldn’t have to plead with Washington every year to ensure these funds are continued,” Johnson said. According to Johnson, Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon has proposed a plan to NACo to permanently fund PILT, but no legislation has been officially introduced.
Phoenix, AZ – The Arizona Association of Counties (AACo) Board of Directors today adopted a resolution encouraging the federal government to honor its financial commitment to federal public land jurisdictions by fully funding the Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. Congress recently adopted the Fiscal Year 2014 federal Omnibus Appropriations Bill and PILT funding was not included. For more than 30 years, the PILT program has compensated counties for the loss of tax revenue associated with certain federal lands. Federal lands are no longer subject to local property tax but are frequently serviced by county governments in the form of roads, emergency management, law enforcement, search and rescue, etc. It was expected that the FY 2014 appropriation would have contained nearly $500 million in federal PILT payments to the nation’s effected counties. This amount would have honored commitments in the current federal fiscal year. AACo staff this week spent time working with the National Association of Counties (NACo) in encouraging members of Congress to include full funding for PILT in the Farm Bill; the most viable remaining legislative vehicle to enact the appropriation. Key congressional leaders continued to negotiate the final components of the legislation and it is anticipated that the Farm Bill will soon be taken up by the full Congress in the coming weeks. To view a copy of AACo’s Resolution on PILT Payments, please click here: http://www.azcounties.org/DocumentCenter/View/488 ###