On January 21, the National Association of Counties (NACo) released our federal legislative priorities for 2016. Each year, NACo’s Board of Directors adopts policy priorities which help guide NACo’s advocacy efforts on behalf of counties. While NACo will always fight to preserve local decision making and protect counties from unfunded mandates and preemption of local authority, the following priorities cover issues of particular importance for the year ahead:
1. Protect Municipal Bonds:
NACo supports preserving the federal deductibility of local property and income taxes and the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds. Provisions like the tax exemption for municipal bond interest have been part of the federal tax code for over 100 years, helping finance trillions of dollars in funding for public facilities, infrastructure and development.
2. Support Marketplace Fairness:
NACo supports legislation to permit the collection of existing sales and use taxes from remote sellers. The issue of collecting remote sales taxes has escalated in recent years due to the Internet’s growth. As a result, state and local governments have lost billions in uncollected sales taxes and Main Street businesses find themselves at a significant competitive disadvantage to online merchants.
3. Protect Medicaid:
NACo supports maintaining the federal-state-local structure for financing and delivering Medicaid services. Counties continue to be concerned about measures that would limit the ability of states to direct supplemental payments to county providers, curtail the ability of counties to contribute local funds to match federal dollars or otherwise shift federal and state Medicaid costs to counties.
4. Promote County Priorities in Surface Transportation Implementation:
NACo will work to ensure that the new surface transportation law is implemented to reflect county priorities, including allocating more funding for locally owned infrastructure, increasing local decision making authority, prioritizing investments that increase safety, as well as continuing to urge Congress to resolve the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund.
5. Support PILT and SRS:
NACo supports restoring full mandatory funding for the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, which compensates counties for tax-exempt federal land within their boundaries. NACo also supports extending the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program as a transitional funding mechanism until the federal government fully implements a sustainable long-term forest management program with adequate revenue sharing for forest counties and schools.
6. Achieve Mental Health and Criminal Justice Reform:
NACo supports measures that maintain funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration block grants, fully implement and expand mental health parity, ease the Medicaid Institute of Mental Disease exclusion, expand access to health information technology, develop and expand the behavioral health workforce, simplify health privacy provisions and provide services across the life cycle. NACo also supports programs and legislation to reduce mental illness in jails and provide appropriate treatment to those in custody.
7. Preserve County Interests in “Waters of the U.S.” Regulations:
NACo believes that local streets, gutters and human made ditches should be excluded from the definition of “Waters of the U.S.” under the Clean Water Act. NACo calls on Congress to require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw the new WOTUS rule and rewrite it in consultation with state and local governments.
In addition to these seven key priorities, NACo continues to advocate for counties on hundreds of other issues. To learn about the many other policies for which NACo advocates, please review the 2015-2016 NACo Policy Platform. To learn more about NACo’s policy process and how counties can get involved, please click one of the links below:
If you have any other questions about NACo’s advocacy on behalf of counties, please contact NACo Legislative Director Deborah Cox at 202.942.4286 or email@example.com.