80a30935-dd6c-494b-8395-47fd93e6ab0bArizona Governor Doug Ducey released his fiscal year (FY) 16 budget this past month.  With a total spending plan of $9.5 billion, the Governor’s goal is to achieve a structurally balanced budget in FY2017 and continue to maintain spending reductions and lower taxes.  Ducey’s FY16 budget calls for $284 million of new spending, some of which could be passed down to counties to pick up the tab.  “Arizona’s counties have a lot riding on the actions that this legislature may or may not take up,” Supervisor Buster Johnson stated.  “Last year Mohave County was faced with over $2.5 million in sweeps from state lawmakers.  Counties cannot afford to have the state’s budget balanced on the backs of our taxpayers.  I am hoping with the appointment of Senator Donahue and her knowledge and background working in County Government and seeing first-hand what state sweeps have done to counties, that we will be able to gather strong support for reducing county sweeps this legislative session,” Johnson continued.

According to the Executive Budget presented to state lawmakers this month, some of the same sweeps that hurt counties last year are going to continue.  “The Executive Budget calls for the continued sweep of our Highway User Revenue Funds.  These funds are vital for ensuring our taxpayers have safe roadways to travel on,” Johnson stated.  The Executive Budget recommends increasing the HURF sweeps by $783,300 to a total $97.2M across all fifteen counties.  “Arizona lawmakers have swept over $5.8 million from Mohave County in the past six years.  Due to this, the county has missed an opportunity to chip seal 350 road miles or 44% of its paved road system,” Johnson continued.

A new county obligation added into the Executive Budget is the requirement that counties help pick up the tab for restoring adult preventative dental care for the elderly and physically disabled (EPD) population under the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS).  “The Governor is recommending an increase of $1.4 million in the state budget for this which will in turn increase the counties Long Term Care System (ALTCS) contributions by $1.2 million in FY17,” Johnson stated.  “For Mohave County the increase will be fairly minimal by raising our contribution by only $36,861 for the first year; however, every little increase is adding up and eventually counties are not going to be able to continue to serve our constituents with the state continuing to sweep funds from us,” Johnson explained.

One problem not addressed in the Executive Budget that is becoming a major concern for counties is the increase in county indigent attorney fees.  “Dependency cases have nearly doubled from 2006 to 2014.  With the Department of Child Safety (DCS) continuing to work through their backlog of uninvestigated cases, it is putting financial pressure on counties to hire more attorneys to keep up with the increased case load,” Johnson explained.  While the Executive Budget gave more money to state agencies to keep up with demand, no money was allocated to help counties who are on the front lines helping to represent the children and the families in these cases.  “The state continues to demand more and more from counties, which is forcing us to cut much needed serves to the taxpayers we are supposed to serve,” Johnson stated.  “Mohave County was able to continue to provide minimal services even with the state sweeps this past year, but with a reduced workforce and already limited services I am not sure how much more we can continue to give,” Johnson ended.

To view both of Arizona’s proposed Fiscal Year 16 budgets please visit:
The Governor’s Proposal: http://azgovernor.gov/budget
The Joint Legislative Budget Committee’s Baseline: http://www.azleg.gov/jlbc/budgetupdates.htm