WASHINGTON, D.C. Belmont County Commissioner Ginny Favede delivered a strong "Why Counties Matter" message to Capitol Hill during the National Association of Counties' (NACo) 2013 Legislative Conference, March 2-6, in Washington, D.C.
With talk of fiscal cliffs and sequestration cuts dominating the headlines, more than1,500 county officials from across the country gathered in the nation's capital to demonstrate to Congress and federal officials that the nation's 3,069 county governments provide the essential building blocks to create healthy, vibrant and safe communities. This includes supporting and maintaining key public infrastructure, transportation and economic development assets; creating and sustaining a skilled workforce to meet the needs of private industry; ensuring public health and public safety needs to protect the public; and implementing a broad portfolio of federal, state and local programs in a cost-effective and accountable manner.
"Our message to Washington was to stop making it more difficult for county government to provide for our communities -- work with us," Favede said. "They needed to hear us say that despite slow-recovering economy and the revenue challenges affecting all levels of government, counties are mandated by state constitution and federal law to provide essential services, and we do every day."
Commissioner Favede, a member of the NACo Community and Economic Development Committee, worked with commissioners from around the country to define policy briefs on Allowing the Collection of Existing Sales Taxes on Out-of-State Catalog and Online Sales, Restoration of Funds for HUD, Housing and Urban Development CDBG Funding, Restoration of Funding for HUD's Home Investment Partnership (HOME) Program and support of level funding for the U.S Economic Development Administration (EDA)
During the conference, Commissioner Favede and other members of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio (CCAO) Board of Directors, met with Congressman Bill Johnson and Senator Brown's Chief of Staff to deliver the Why Counties Matter message in person and offer to work collaboratively with their federal partners to meet the needs of the Ohio counties. Important federal issues affecting counties and communities discussed included: preserving the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds, restoration of economic development aid, and protecting the federal-state-local partnership for Medicaid.
"This particular trip to Capitol Hill was very refreshing; I felt our concerns were sincerely heard by our legislators in Washington D.C. Building relationships with our representatives in Washington is tremendously important to our area," said Commissioner Favede
Favede and CCAO Executives addressed Workforce Investment Area (WIA) funding, USDA Funding for infrastructure, unfunded EPA mandates, CDBG funding, HUD funding and the financial difficulties that counties are burdened with as a result of the Help America Vote Act.
NACo President Chris Rodgers, commissioner, Douglas County, Neb., said counties are important because the programs and services provided by counties touch the lives of virtually every American.
More than 2,900 counties own a jail or participate in a regional jail and admit nearly 12 million people each year. Counties provide public health services, including flu shots and restaurant inspections through 1,947 health departments. Counties own and maintain 44 percent of America's roadways and 228,026 bridges and almost one third of the nation's transit systems and airports. Counties respond to all disasters and in most cases without assistance from other levels of governments. Counties run the nation's polling places to keep our democracy strong. Counties own 964 hospitals and spend $68 billion on health care services annually.
"If you vote, drive to work, take the bus, get a flu shot, visit the library, go to the hospital, eat at a restaurant, play in the park, recycle, or call 911 you are interacting with your county government," Rodgers said.
Also during the Legislative Conference, participating county officials heard from national leaders on issues important to counties and communities, including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Sen. James E. Risch (R-Idaho), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), journalist and author Bob Woodward and economist Mark M. Zandi. See summaries of their remarks below.
In addition to carrying the county government message to Capitol Hill, county officials participated in a variety of educational workshops. Commissioner Favede attended: Making Your Message Heard: Effective Advocacy Tips, How to Improve Your Rural Economy Despite Resource Restraints