Members of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) were at the state capitol Wednesday to not only unveil their list of priorities, but also to begin work on the commonwealth 2012-2013 budget and related initiatives released by Governor Corbett the day before.
"Our goals are ambitious, and Governor Corbett's clear indication yesterday of our financial picture and his concurrent reliance on counties to assist in the solution will be challenging," Jo Ellen Litz, Lebanon County commissioner and 2012 CCAP president said. "However, our counties are up to the task. We support the direction the administration has taken in proposing expanding flexibility and reducing administrative burdens in the delivery of human services. And our priorities across the board emphasize increased local decision-making in providing services, real cost savings, and above all, improved stewardship of taxpayer dollars."
Litz said the priorities reflect a consensus of Pennsylvania's county governments on issues of highest significance and greatest potential impact to counties and their taxpayers.
"Counties' legislative priorities for 2012 represent our proactive agenda to strengthen our partnership with legislators and agency officials and develop creative solutions to our mutual challenges. They clearly demonstrate county officials' commitment to improve tax equity for local residents and our desire to improve government efficiency. Counties seek to implement meaningful reform and will work to assure that funding decisions made at the state level do not adversely impact local taxpayers," Litz said.
The counties' top priority is human services system reform, designed to seek reprieve from state mandates that prevent counties from getting the most value out of limited resources, dovetailing with the governor's proposal to remove some categorical barriers through a Human Services Development Block Grant.
"Counties are at the forefront of the delivery of human services, but a history of funding cuts and increased administrative burdens have made it much more difficult to efficiently deliver local programs," Litz explained. "Last August, CCAP members developed a list of innovative ideas that were provided to the Department of Public Welfare in response to the challenge raised to both our organizations under the 2011 Fiscal Code amendments. The governor's announcement represents a continuation of our combined efforts to find creative solutions that will improve service delivery to all Pennsylvanians."
The 2012 CCAP priorities also address the need for adequate funding for core government services, and cover a range of topics that acknowledge counties' commitment to improving county governance, including: funding and modernization solutions for transportation and infrastructure, supporting new revenue opportunities and increasing tax fairness, implementing assessment reform, maintaining and improving 911 services, improving district attorney funding, strengthening conservation districts' relationship with DEP, continuing to enhance oil and gas pipeline safety and restoring the county recycling fee.
Another priority, addressing local impacts from shale gas drilling and establishing an impact fee that would ensure meaningful local revenues to meet the broad and divergent needs of impacted counties and their municipalities, was addressed this week through House Bill 1950.
Litz also discussed counties' sensitivity to the ongoing effects of the recession and concerns related to the commonwealth budget for 2012-2013. She recognized Corbett and legislators for their efforts in providing mandate relief for counties in 2011 and called on officials to continue working together to find solutions that will assure limited resources are used effectively and to best address the needs of communities.
More information about the counties' priorities is available at www.pacounties.org by clicking on "2012 Legislative Priorities," or by calling (717) 232-7554.
CCAP is the voice of county government, a statewide, nonprofit, nonpartisan association representing Pennsylvania's 67 counties.