Supervisors from around the state gathered to rally against the threat of state prisoner transfers and mounting raids against county coffers to pad the state budget.
At the annual Legislative Summit of the County Supervisors Association (CSA) held in early October, Gila County Supervisors Tommie Martin, Shirley Dawson and Mike Pastor joined nearly 40 of their fellow elected supervisors from around Arizona to establish a legislative agenda and discuss priorities for the upcoming legislative session.
The group is concerned by the ongoing impact of state cost shifts onto county operations and county residents.
The supervisors called on the Legislature to repeal the shift of state prisoners to county jails, set to occur on July 1, 2012. The prisoner shift would transfer a number of felons to the Gila County jail, leading to significantly higher public safety costs and potentially endangering the safety of inmates and detention officers in the jail.
“I want to make sure publicity goes out on our opposition to the prisoner shift,” said Dawson at a recent Gila County Board of Supervisors meeting.
Also of concern to supervisors is the Legislature’s use of so-called “county contributions” (forced county payments to the state) to balance the state budget. In the last four state budgets, the Legislature has forced Pima and Maricopa counties to “contribute” nearly $125 million.
This year, the Legislature expanded the number of counties forced to contribute to include Yavapai, Mohave and Pinal counties, which were required to provide the state with $5,439,800 from county coffers.
The supervisors also expressed alarm with the Legislature’s ongoing shift of Highway User Revenue Fund (HURF) monies, which has cost counties over $73 million since 2008. Most of the diverted revenue has been used to supplement the budgets of state agencies, including the Department of Public Safety and the Motor Vehicle Division.
While frustrated with the ongoing shift of costs to county governments, supervisors attending the summit applauded Gov. Jan Brewer for supporting counties and helping to maintain their ability to serve local residents. Many felt the governor demonstrated respect for the principle of local control and successfully reduced negative impacts to counties in the state budget.
“We were extremely pleased to welcome Gov. Brewer to the summit and acknowledge her efforts on behalf of Arizona counties in last year’s legislative session,” Supervisor Martin said in a press release from Gila County.
“Gov. Brewer’s leadership and support protected counties from budget impacts and legislation that would have weakened our ability to serve local residents. We look forward to asking for her support of the counties’ 2012 legislative agenda.”