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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Commissioners Zero-In On Priorities

Commissioners Zero-In On Priorities

ccapThe Potter County Commissioners will participate in a conference call on Thursday to help develop strategies for effectively lobbying state lawmakers on key initiatives. County leaders from throughout Pennsylvania have crafted a list of priorities that include human services funding changes, assessment reform, maintaining and improving 911 services, criminal justice reform for inmates with mental illness and substance abuse issues, and others. The nine key priorities have emerged from a lengthy process to form consensus positions among members of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania. They reflect counties’ commitment to providing quality services while improving efficiencies and assuring the funding decisions at the state level do not adversely impact local taxpayers. Among the priorities are:
Human Services Funding and System Reform: Pennsylvania’s counties continue to focus on strengthening the partnership with state leaders on human services delivery along with reform of the human services delivery system. Progress was made in 2012 with the Human Services Block Grant pilot and a flexibility work group established by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. There is more work to be done on human services system reform.
Assessment Reform: The property tax continues as the primary source of local revenue for counties, municipalities and schools, with counties’ role one of administration and maintenance of the complex and often expensive real property assessment system. The current system makes fairness and equity difficult to achieve. Counties endorse the recommendations found in the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee report, “Pennsylvania’s System for Property Valuation and Reassessment.”
Transportation Funding: Pennsylvania’s transportation system faces critical funding shortfalls. Counties support the recommendations of the Governor’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission, especially recommendations on improving funding streams for counties and municipalities.
Maintaining and Improving 911 Services: Counties have responsibility for the operation of the 911 call-taking and dispatch. Current laws create inconsistencies in funding and administration. A county priority for 2013 is to join work underway within PEMA to rewrite and consolidate the statute to accommodate current and future technologies.
Inmates with Mental Illness and Substance Abuse Issues: Many of Pennsylvania’s counties have instituted practices that have led to a reduction in jail populations or the rate of prison population growth. Despite these best efforts, counties continue to face an equally challenging problem — inmates with mental illness and substance abuse issues. Counties support several objectives to assure inmates with these issues have the supports needed to keep them out of the prison system or to remain out of jail upon release.
Shale Gas Impacts: Following the enactment of Act 13 in 2012, counties support further action to continue to address local impacts of shale gas development, including pipeline planning and restoration of conservation district roles.
Prevailing Wage Reform: One item impacting county budgets is outdated statutory provisions such as those found in the Prevailing Wage Act that are both unnecessary and which divert taxpayer dollars from being used most effectively. Counties support a number of options for amendments to the Prevailing Wage Act.

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