County leaders go to Washington
Currently more than 1,500 county leaders are gathered in Washington D.C. to meet with key members of the Obama administration and Congress as part of the National Association of Counties (NACo) annual Legislative Conference.
Leaders plan to address county issues that are influenced by federal policy such as transportation, municipal bonds, health care, the environment and public land management. According to NACo materials, these local leaders are taking their message to Congress and the White House to emphasize that federal policies matter at the county level.
“Counties and their residents feel the effects of countless decisions made in Washington,” NACo President Riki Hokama said in a statement. “We are here to work with our federal partners as their actions profoundly impact everyday Americans on the ground, where they live and work.”
In meetings with federal lawmakers and officials, NACo plans to outline a list of key federal policy priorities the organization says impacts counties the most. These priorities include:
- Preserving the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds
- Fixing the Highway Trust Fund and passing a long-term surface transportation authorization bill
- Ensuring full funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes and Secure Rural Schools programs
- Enabling counties to collect existing sales taxes on remote and online sales
- Creating a clear, workable definition of “waters of the U.S.”
- Protecting the federal-state-local partnership for Medicaid
- Supporting comprehensive immigration reform.
On issues such as transportation and infrastructure, counties are key players. These governments own and maintain 45 percent of the nation’s road miles and nearly 40 percent of the nation’s bridges. NACo reports that every year, counties invest more than $70 billion.
However uncertainty at the federal level threatens infrastructure growth. Congress continues to pass stopgap measures rather than comprehensive, long-term funding solutions for infrastructure projects. Changes to the status of municipal bonds could also threaten growth.
NACo says counties are ready to work with their federal counterparts to craft long-term policy to put an end to the uncertainty. “Counties stand ready to strengthen our intergovernmental collaboration. We look forward to working with the Administration and leaders on Capitol Hill,” said Hokama. “Every level of government must work together to shape policies that improve the quality of life for all Americans.”
For more information, watch NACo’s video below, which details top federal priorities, and why they matter for local governments.