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Reviewing Legislative Concerns Impacting Coconino County

The Arizona Legislature is gearing up to convene on Jan. 13, starting with Governor Doug Ducey’s State of the State Address.

While the legislature will receive the governor’s priorities and goals on the first day of the session, it has already begun working on developing priorities. Coconino County has been actively engaged with the policy makers on many issues that will be addressed during the 2020 session.

The county’s primary priority is achieving tax equity on short-term rentals. A short-term rental is using a residential home to rent on Airbnb, VRBO or similar platform. Short-term rentals are prevalent throughout the county.

These consume a lot of the housing stock needed for workers and families. The county, under the leadership of Assessor Armando Ruiz and District 3 Supervisor Matt Ryan, is leading a coalition of all 15 Arizona counties to appropriately identify investor-owned residences that are used as short-term rentals and reclassify the properties as “commercial use” for property taxes. In Coconino County and the state, bed and breakfasts, timeshares and hotels are all classified as commercial use. It’s the county’s contention that short-term rentals should be treated the same.

This classification will not raise county revenues but will provide a small tax cut for the residential homeowners throughout the county.

Another priority of the county is funding for the 2020 Presidential Preference Election (PPE). By law, Coconino County must conduct the PPE on March 17. However, the PPE is not fully funded by the state. Last session, the state provided $4.4 million to fund the election administration but that will not meet the cost of the election. Counties are seeking an additional $3 million to reimburse the costs of the election. County taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill for a purely partisan election.

From July 2018 to June of this year, there was a large cost increase of the state’s Aging and Long-Term Care System (ALTCS). Before 1997, county taxpayers paid for this through the old county nursing home system. In 1997, the state took over the program, but county taxpayers were still paying more than 55% of the state cost of the system. Because of the aging population and older demographic migrating to the state, program costs have grown. This coming year, Coconino County is expected to increase its contribution by 10%. That’s more than $225,000. Coconino County taxpayers cannot sustain that rate of increase and are asking legislators to contain the increases to 2 to 3%.

Once the legislature begins, this session will go quickly. Please go to coconino.az.gov/publicaffairs for the county’s advocacy efforts. To find more details about the county’s legislative priorities, view “Coconino at the Capitol,” a weekly video recap of efforts at the legislature. FBN

By Eric Peterson

Eric Peterson is the public affairs director for Coconino County.

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