National Association of Counties
Washington, D.C.

 Board OKs budget, legislative priorities, conference sites

By Tom Goodman


Photo by Tom Goodman
During the fall Board of Directors meeting in Memphis, Tenn., NACo’s female leadership, joined by NACo President Chris Rodgers, gathers round the Christmas tree for a holiday belles portrait. 

NACo’s Board of Directors adopted a $15.8 million budget for 2013, seven key legislative priorities and approved three future sites for the Annual Conference at its fall meeting, held this year in Shelby County (Memphis), Tenn. Dec. 7–8.

Board-Rodgers.pngNACo President Chris Rodgers (second, right) discusses Board responses to a question about county corrections programs. Several panels discussed the results of a poll of the Board members, taken at their meeting, about the critical issues facing county governments nationwide.  Other panelists included (l-r): Larry Long, County Commissioners Association of Ohio; Commissioner Roy Brooks, Tarrant County, Texas; Carole Moehrle, Nez Perce County, Idaho; Rodgers; and Eugene Smith, Dunn County, Wis. county manager.
NACo Executive Director Matt Chase also gave a presentation on the state of the association and outlined the “One NACo Strategic Blueprint.” Chase said the blueprint is being crafted with consideration for all three levels of government. At the federal level, 70 percent of the cuts recommended by the Simpson-Bowles panel have been enacted. “We’ve already felt the pain,” Chase said.


At the state level, NACo needs to be aware of trends, he said, especially unfunded and underfunded mandates. It is also vitally important that NACo understands the factors facing counties, he said.

Chase, who became executive director on Sept. 17, maintained that NACo has to work with a sense of urgency, stay relevant, strengthen its research and be pro-active. “The status quo isn’t an option,” he said. “We have to lead change.”

He added NACo must know politics and understand the process, but to be successful it cannot just focus on the White House and Capitol Hill. It must engage the business community, the media and the public in telling the county story, he said.

The building blocks for the future are advocacy, education, networking and research, he said, adding that NACo’s mission is “to assist America’s counties in pursuing excellence in public service.”
Board-Kniss.pngSupervisor Liz Kniss, Santa Clara County, Calif., makes a point during discussions about poll results.
NACo President Chris Rodgers, in his President’s Report, provided Board members with copies of the book, “Who Moved My Cheese?” Rodgers encouraged Board members to read the book because it offers ideas for dealing with what the country and counties are facing now.

2013 Legislative Priorities

The seven key legislative priorities chosen by the Board for 2013 are: 
  • protect the federal-state-local partnership for Medicaid
  • support key federal investments in programs that promote local job creation and economic growth
  • oppose unfunded mandates
  • promote county priorities within immigration reform
  • protect county revenue and investment strategies
  • support revenue-sharing and payment in lieu of taxes programs, and
  • support rural development initiatives and the Farm Bill.

Annual Conference Sites

Catching up with one another during a break at the Board of Directors meeting: (l-r) NACo Immediate Past President Lenny Eliason, NACo Past President Glen Whitley and NACo Second Vice President Riki Hokama.

The board also voted on future sites for NACo’s annual conference, held during the summer each year. The approved future conference sites include Los Angeles (Long Beach), Calif. in 2016; Franklin County (Columbus), Ohio in 2017; and Davidson County (Nashville), Tenn. in 2018. 

Dave Keen, NACo chief financial officer, said the budget reflects overall savings with modest adjustments to reflect new and shifting priorities. Three staff positions have been eliminated, he said. At the same time, there will be increased focus in research, grant development, education and training, corporate member support, and Internet and social media.  

Keen said the association is ending 2012 with a projected surplus of $214,000. The reasons he gave for this “healthy balance sheet” are: 

  • membership revenue up $167,000
  • deferred compensation program revenue up $121,000
  • higher attendance at the Western Interstate Region (WIR) Conference
  • Healthy Counties sponsorships up $40,000
  • LUCC and RAC sponsorships up $33,000, and
  • savings from vacancies.  

In addition, investments gained nearly 8 percent, he said. 

The Board also voted to give the staff three more months to develop a proposal to offer discount medical services to county residents. The proposal would either add the medical services and the Dental Discount Program to the existing Prescription Discount Card Program or combine the medical services with the dental program. The possible services include vision (eyeglasses), diabetic services, hearing aids, lab imaging and others. 

The Board heard a presentation by Paul Stebbins, executive chairman, World Fuel Services Corporation, a Fortune 75 company and a member of the CEO Council of the Campaign to Fix the Debt. Stebbins spoke about the problems if the nation’s debt is not brought under control and the methods that could be used to achieve debt control.


Polling Session


On the final day of the meeting, Board members participated in an electronic polling session and discussed national issues critical to counties and the country. The issues included the fiscal cliff, jobs and economic development, health care, immigration, transportation and the election process.

Concerning the fiscal cliff, 62 percent of the Board members said they felt President Obama and the Republicans in Congress will reach an agreement to avert going over the cliff, while 30 percent said they did not think an agreement would be reached.

Sixty-eight percent of the members said that if the automatic cuts and tax increases go into effect it will have a major effect on their counties. In a panel discussion, Board members cited infrastructure, community development, and health and human services as major concerns associated with the fiscal cliff. Thirty-two percent said it will have a minor effect.

The top three items that Board members felt should be included in a “Grand Bargain” are entitlement reform (25 percent), reduction in federal tax deductions and closing loopholes (25 percent), and tax rate increases (21 percent). Board members did not support reducing the mortgage interest deduction, the deductibility of local property taxes, or the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds.

There were break-out sessions following the polling discussions to assess NACo programs and services and the issues facing counties.

2013 NACo Legislative Priorities


Members of the executive committee and staff review NACo 2013 policy priorities. Pictured are (l-r) Commissioner Joe Giles, Erie County, Pa.; Commissioner  Joe Bryan, Wake County, N.C.; Commissioner Robert Cope, Lemhi County, Idaho; Immediate Past President Lenny Eliason; Second Vice President Riki Hokama; First Vice President Linda Langston; and (standing) Ed Rosado, NACo legislative affairs director.

At its fall meeting, NACo’s Board of Directors adopted seven key legislative priorities that will guide NACo’s overall advocacy efforts in the new 113th Congress.



Protect Federal-State-Local Partnership for Medicaid 

NACo members support maintaining the federal-state-local partnership structure for financing and delivering Medicaid services. We also oppose cuts, caps, block grants or any other measures that would further shift federal and state Medicaid costs to counties. 

Support Key Federal Investments in Programs that Promote Local Job Creation and Economic Growth 

NACo members support fully funding key federal programs and investments that support the nation’s future economic growth, including the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME programs, the Economic Development Administration (EDA), investments in local workforce development programs, and investments in highway, transit, aviation, port and water infrastructure development.   

Equally important, we support investments in programs that support the federal safety net, including Medicaid, social services, justice and public safety programs, and other domestic programs that are essential to creating and maintaining jobs in healthy, safe and vibrant communities. 

Oppose Unfunded Mandates  

NACo members are constantly vigilant against legislative or regulatory initiatives that undermine local government decision-making authority and contribute to reductions to our economic prosperity and workforce. We oppose any new unfunded or underfunded mandates or federal initiatives that fail to protect county investments, including efforts which seek to undermine the authority of state and local governments with respect to public pension and retirement benefits reform, as well as efforts to use federal environmental and other statutes to overregulate county projects and programs.   

Promote County Priorities within Immigration Reform 

NACo members oppose federal efforts that would place the financial burden of immigration on the backs of counties without sufficient funds for health, public safety and education services. We support comprehensive immigration reform that includes a modernized legal immigration system, establishes a temporary worker program, provides an earned path to citizenship and enhances border security.   

Protect County Revenue and Investment Strategies 

NACo members support the preservation of the federal deductibility of local property and income taxes and the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds that provide critical funding for infrastructure and development. Furthermore, we support legislative initiatives that permit the collection of sales and use taxes from remote sellers. However, we oppose any efforts that would preferentially treat any industry seeking to create its own special immunity from state and local taxation. 

Support Revenue Sharing and Payment in Lieu of Taxes Programs 

NACo members support extending full mandatory funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) Program as well as legislative efforts to reform and fund the expired Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program. PILT compensates counties for tax-exempt federal land within their boundaries.  

Support Rural Development Initiatives and the Farm Bill 

NACo members support federal investments in rural development and will work to prioritize and increase the flexibility of these investments through a Farm Bill reauthorization and funding for USDA Rural Development programs. These programs assist rural counties in their efforts to partner with all sectors to develop water-wastewater infrastructure, community facilities, broadband, electric, housing, renewable energy and capital for businesses.