KINGMAN – It was a “team effort” by Mohave County’s three representatives to get anything accomplished at the 2017 legislative session, where they were up against 30 elected officials from Maricopa County, state Sen. Sonny Borrelli said Wednesday at the Mohave Republican Forum.
The first thing he wanted to dispel is “misrepresentation” in media reports that the state continues to sweep massive amounts of funds from counties and cities.
Mohave County officials have been crying that the state is “breaking their backs” with $902,000 of cost-sharing sweeps, Borrelli said.
But they forget to mention the $550,000 in lottery funds that are being returned to the county, along with $136,000 in contribution to the Department of Public Safety, the state senator noted.
“That leaves a $216,000 sweep of the county. That’s a far cry from breaking the county’s back,” he said. “So it’s not 100 percent eliminated, but we’re knocking it down.”
Since Borrelli was elected as a state representative in 2013, the state has returned $30 million to counties and cities, he added.
He said Rep. Gina Cobb, R-Kingman, was “extremely instrumental” as chair of the Appropriation Subcommittee in making sure that the Legislature was rural-friendly.
Cobb said Mohave County politicians were able to get most of what they wanted passed. The indigent defense fund was one of their defeats. Cobb wrote a bill to return those funds last year that died on the floor.
Along with restoring funds to the county, the Legislature put more than $350 million into education, including a 2 percent pay increase for teachers. Another $8 million went to all-day kindergarten.
“I’m so proud of what we did with education,” Cobb said.
She’s not so proud of allowing California unions to come into the state and pour money into Proposition 206, an initiative that raised Arizona’s minimum wage to $10 an hour at the start of the year, and mandated paid sick leave effective July 1.
Legislators had to put another $34 million into the budget, and it cost the state in disabled services that were eliminated because many of the jobs paid minimum wage and weren’t able to sustain the increase.
“Prop. 206, indirectly and directly, affected the Arizona budget,” Cobb said. “Initiatives should be brought by voters, not by out-of-state special interest groups.”
Health care is the No. 1 issue for Arizona, and the public pension fund is No. 2, Cobb said.
“We’ve still got issues with PSPRS (Public Safety Personnel Retirement System) and we’re working on that,” she said. “Their administrative costs are phenomenal, way out of whack compared to return on investment. That’s on the back of communities, not just our county, but every county, and that’s what county supervisors are struggling with right now.”
Mohave County carries an unfunded liability of $39 million between PSPRS and EORP (Elected Officials Retirement Plan), which is a major sticking point in the 2018 tentative budget under consideration.