The Arizona State Legislature began its 2018 legislative session earlier this month and the governor and legislators are now at work crafting legislation, hearing bills in committee and writing the next state budget.
The decisions made at the State Capitol greatly affect the citizens of Coconino County and sadly, the state’s recent revenue projections may not leave the state with a lot of options this year. That’s why we at the county build strong relationships with state legislators throughout the year. We want to make sure that they have a broad understanding of county fiscal needs and functions.
Last December, the county hosted a legislative roundtable. The Board of Supervisors, County Constitutional Officers and staff met with area legislators and discussed the county’s state fiscal and legislative priorities that are already at the forefront of this legislative session.
One issue the county is focused on is the permanent elimination of mandated county payments to state agencies. Starting in 2016, the state mandated county payments to fund state departments like the Department of Revenue and to the Department of Juvenile Corrections. These mandated payments reduce the county’s ability to provide services to our constituents, and shift the responsibility for funding from the state to local government.
Counties are subdivisions of the state and provide essential and mandated functions including conducting elections, providing public safety and juvenile corrections. We already have many responsibilities required by the state, and these additional cost shifts are painful.
Our Juvenile Corrections Department is recognized throughout the country for using evidenced-based practices to treat kids here locally while preventing them from entering the system as adults. This reduces recidivism and subsequently saves taxpayer dollars. We shouldn’t divert that investment in our kids to a state agency in Phoenix.
During the session, Coconino County will continue to be a driving force on properly funding transportation. You only have to drive a few miles in any direction on Interstates 17 and 40 to realize the need for changing the way we fund our state roads. The county is committed to working with legislators to find solutions by looking at all revenue options and analyzing new ideas, because a solid infrastructure system is vital to economic development and public safety.
The county is also poised to encourage legislators to make serious strides in criminal justice reform. We’re asking that they support Governor Ducey’s Fair Chance Initiative, which eliminates the criminal history box on initial state employment applications. The county passed a similar measure in May 2017. We also support reform measures outlined by the Justice for All Task Force led by Chief Justice Scott Bales, such as finding non-monetary substitutes for bail. These reform efforts can save valuable resources and give people a better chance at succeeding after incarceration.
We look forward to continuing this dialogue throughout the session on these issues and other with lawmakers from across the state. Together, we can face these challenges head on for the betterment of all counties and communities in Arizona.
If you would like to know more about how to support the county in these efforts, please contact the County Public Affairs Department at 928-679-7120. FBN
By Cynthia Seelhammer
Cynthia Seelhammer is the manager of Coconino County.