On January 8, the National Association of Counties (NACo) announced the association’s top policy priorities for 2018. Each year, NACo’s Board of Directors – which is composed of elected county officials from across the country – works with the association’s ten policy steering committees to select legislative and regulatory issues most pressing to America’s county governments. In addition to preserving local decision making, protecting counties from unfunded mandates and local preemption and strengthening the federal-state-local partnership, NACo will focus on the following:
PROMOTE COUNTY INFRASTRUCTURE PRIORITIES
NACo will work with the Administration and Congress to ensure that any infrastructure package, including reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act and the Highway Trust Fund, reflects the following county priorities: allocating more funding for locally owned infrastructure, increasing local decision-making authority and prioritizing investments that increase economic development, mobility and safety.
SUPPORT THE PAYMENT IN LIEU OF TAXES (PILT) AND SECURE RURAL SCHOOLS (SRS) PROGRAMS
NACo supports restoring full mandatory funding for the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, which compensates counties for untaxable 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.
SUPPORT POLICIES TO PROMOTE MENTAL HEALTH, SUBSTANCE ABUSE TREATMENT AND JUSTICE REFORM
NACo supports measures that enhance the ability of counties to prevent and treat mental illness and substance use disorders, both in the community and within the context of the criminal justice system. NACo also supports programs and legislation that divert non-violent individuals struggling with mental illness and/or substance use disorders from jails and into treatment programs, while protecting overall public safety.
PROTECT THE FEDERAL-STATE-LOCAL PARTNERSHIP FOR MEDICAID
NACo supports protecting the federal-state-local partnership structure for financing and delivering Medicaid services while maximizing flexibility to support local systems of care. Counties are concerned about measures that would further shift Medicaid costs to counties, including proposals to institute block grants or per capita caps. These proposals would increase the amount of uncompensated care provided by counties and reduce counties’ ability to provide for the health of our residents. NACo also supports targeted efforts to enhance flexibility in the program to support local systems of care, including easing Medicaid’s Institute of Mental Diseases (IMD) and inmate exclusions.
WORK TOWARDS A MORE EFFECTIVE DEFINITION OF WATERS OF THE U.S.
NACo believes that local streets, gutters and human-made ditches should be excluded from the definition of “Waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) under the federal 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 to rewrite it in consultation and collaboration with state and local governments.
SUPPORT COUNTY AUTHORITY TO COLLECT EXISTING SALES TAX
NACo supports legislation to permit the collection of existing sales and use taxes from remote sellers. The issue of collecting remote sales taxes has taken on greater significance in recent years due to the Internet’s growth as a retail marketplace. 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. This disadvantage is amplified because online merchants and their customers use and benefit from local infrastructure and services without contributing to their provision.
SUPPORT PROGRAMS THAT ASSIST COUNTIES TO PREVENT AND REDUCE POVERTY
NACo supports federal investments and strategies that focus on serving those most in need and the root causes of poverty. Because counties are responsible to maintain the local social safety net and are typically mandated to provide indigent care, NACo supports fully funding programs that assist our nation’s most vulnerable populations and maintain the maximum amount of flexibility possible at the local level. Key federal programs that assist counties in tackling poverty include the Social Services Block Grant and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
SUPPORT A COMPREHENSIVE LONG-TERM FARM BILL REAUTHORIZATION
NACo supports a long-term reauthorization of the farm bill to help counties provide critical investments in our nation’s most underserved communities. In addition to a long-term reauthorization, NACo also supports full funding for all farm bill titles, which help strengthen our nation’s rural infrastructure including broadband and water and wastewater systems, protect our nation’s food supply, increase access to healthy food to low-income populations through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), and promote environmental stewardship and conservation.
In addition to these priorities, NACo continues to advocate for counties on hundreds of other issues. To learn about NACo’s policies, please review the American County Platform. To learn more about NACo’s policy process and how counties can get involved, please review the links below: