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National Association of Counties
Washington, D.C.

www.NACo.org

 RAC advances rural interests in Washington

By Erik Johnston
ASSOCIATE LEGISLATIVE DIRECTOR


 

 
FLY-inVilsack.pngPhoto by Bev Schlotterbeck
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack (center) tells Rural Action Caucus (RAC) members that he cannot intervene to stop sequestration’s impact on Secure Rural Schools funds. Also pictured are RAC Chair Doris Karloff and NACo Immediate Past President Lenny Eliason.
Reauthorization of the farm bill with robust rural development funding, protecting the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds and opposing unfunded federal mandates were among the legislative priorities that members of NACo’s Rural Action Caucus (RAC) advanced before members of Congress and Administration officials during “fly-in” advocacy efforts, April 23–25, in Washington, D.C.  
 

Each year, RAC identifies the most pressing issues facing rural America and brings them to the attention of key Administration officials and members of Congress. This year’s priority issues include: 

  • relief from unfunded federal mandates, such as expansion of federal regulation under the Clean Water Act, which would burden rural taxpayers and counties with significant costs
  • opposition to efforts to change the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds which are a well-established financing tool used by state and local governments for infrastructure and capital needs, such as the construction or improvement of schools, roads, highways, hospitals, bridges, water and sewer systems, and ports
  • reauthorization of the farm bill that supports mandatory funding for conservation, renewable energy, rural development and beginning farmers/ranchers programs
  • securing federal funding for payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) and Forest payments to counties, and
  • renewed focus on improving rural health and substance abuse programs with a focus on rural veterans and youth, including efforts to protect Medicaid and supporting the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (SAPT) Block Grant.  

A highlight of the RAC fly-in included a meeting with the co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Rural Caucus, Reps. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) and Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.), to discuss bipartisan solutions to rural challenges and opportunities. RAC members also met with officials from the EPA, the Department of Transportation and had a dialogue with the White House Rural Council moderated by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. 

RAC, chaired by Supervisor Doris M. Karloff, Saunders County, Neb., is a bipartisan coalition of rural elected officials from across the country striving to enhance the quality of life in rural counties through effective federal legislation.  Nearly two-thirds of the nation’s 3,069 counties are designated as rural.  

County leaders from these rural areas are dedicated to solving many critical issues impacting rural life and development, including infrastructure development, broadband deployment, development of new rural clinics and hospitals, road and bridge construction and maintenance, and business development opportunities. 

For more information, contact Erik Johnston at ejohnston@naco.org or 202.942.4230. 

FLY-in1.pngPhoto by Matt Fellows
NACo First Vice President Linda Langston (l) stresses the importance of municipal bonds as a key financing tool for rural counties during a meeting with staff from the Congressional Rural Caucus (CRC). With her are: (clockwise) Josh Jackson, legislative director for CRC Co-Chair Rep. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.); Person County, N.C. Commissioner Ray Jeffers; Dinwiddie County, Va. Supervisor Harrison Moody; NACo Immediate Past President Lenny Eliason; Kaitlin Wolf, CRC staff lead for Co-Chair Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.); and RAC Chair and Saunders County, Neb. Supervisor Doris Karloff.