The new year brings a sense of a new beginning to many parts of our lives. It also brings a new legislative session and new opportunities for the county to engage with our state policymakers. Our county is working on important items to stretch the property-tax dollars we all pay and improve our quality of life by:
Implementing tax equity on online purchases of goods with existing sales taxes.
How we shop for groceries and other goods is changing. Online sales are now a fact of life. With this change, there is a need for tax equity between local brick and mortar retailers and online retailers. The Supreme Court now allows Arizona to tax online sales through the Wayfair decision. Coconino County is joining with a broad coalition of groups to encourage the state to adopt the existing state and local sales tax for online sales. It’s a basic matter of equity and fairness for sales taxes be collected on items sold at stores or bought online.
Permanently eliminating the Arizona Department of Juvenile Correction (ADJC) Fee to Counties.
In 2015, the state shifted 25 percent (more than $11 million) of the state cost of running juvenile corrections to local taxpayers. Coconino County taxpayers will have to pay $236,900 from their property tax dollars if the legislature does not act. We know that juvenile corrections in Coconino County works – it’s nationally recognized for its evidence-based approach to treatment and stopping the pipeline to prison. With those results, we don’t need to divert any of our local dollars to pay for state agencies down in the Valley.
Granting permanent pension liability funding to the Arizona’s rural counties.
Arizona runs a multitude of pension programs, one of which is the Elected Official Retirement Plan (EORP). EORP is drastically underfunded, in part due to the state not fulfilling a promise to fund the liability of the plan. Coconino County is joining with the 12 rural counties of Arizona to ask the Legislature to grant permanent annual funding of $3 million statewide. This will provide Coconino with $250,000 annually to offset the liability for these pensions. For every dollar we pay now, it is one less dollar of debt pushed off to the next generation.
Investing in long-term transportation infrastructure funding.
Coconino County supports legislative efforts to reinforce and better invest in the state’s transportation infrastructure. The current static gas tax model has far less purchasing power today than when it was last modified. Additionally, state budgets have swept (or raided) local transportation funds to pay for state costs. We oppose these sweeps and want to work with the Legislature on long-term, achievable and sustainable ways of funding our transportation network.
As we engage with your elected officials about these items, I hope that you can offer your insight to them on these issues. It’s an easy email or phone call. Visit www.azleg.gov to find their contact information. Your voice is just as important in the new year as it is on Election Day! FBN
By Eric Peterson
Eric Peterson is the public affairs director for Coconino County.