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Fri, Jan. 24

Lottery bill is no winner for Mohave County

Buster Johnson

Buster Johnson

KINGMAN - Mohave County officials are crying foul after the Arizona Senate released a budget bill that would restore lottery funds to some but not all counties in the state.

Senate Bill 1483 would restore the County Assistance Fund to counties that have populations of less than 200,000 people according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Mohave County has 200,186 people. The fund gives counties a portion of the state's lottery ticket sales to help pay for state mandated programs.

Mohave County's share was usually around $550,000, said County Finance Director John Timko.

"Mohave County should not be grouped with counties such as Pima and Maricopa who have an estimated combined population of 5 million," said District 3 Supervisor Buster Johnson.

District 4 Supervisor Joy Brotherton said she was aware of the negotiations but was unaware of the final decision by the Senate.

District 2 Supervisor Hildy Angius said she wasn't surprised to hear the news. County supervisors were told at an Arizona County Supervisors Association meeting that Mohave County might be cut out of the assistance fund. The association has been fighting to make sure that all counties get money from the fund, she said.

Angius had hoped Gov. Jan Brewer might do something about the issue. She met with Brewer during her last visit to Mohave County and the governor's staff had assured her the governor's budget contained $500,000 in assistance funds for Mohave County.

District 5 Supervisor Steven Moss said he's already spoken with Sen. Kelli Ward and Reps. Doris Goodale and Sonny Borrelli. The three legislators were not available for an immediate comment.

"They've been fighting against this in the Legislature," he said. "The budget's not done but I wouldn't be surprised if we don't get the funds."

Timko isn't worried. The county has been surviving without the funds for the past three years after the state decided to use the money to fill its budget deficit.

"We weren't counting on it (for this year's budget) but it would have a positive impact if we get it," he said.

Moss agreed.

"It would take the pressure off of us when it comes to public safety issues like Colorado City and the Lake Mohave Ranchos Fire District," he said. "These dollars add up."

The Board will have a better idea of the effect after county staff finishes the county budget in June, Moss said.

Timko is also expecting an $8 million bill from the state for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System and Arizona Long Term Care System. The county also hasn't received word on how much the federal government will give the county in PILT funds - Payment in Lieu of Taxes.

The Senate's proposed budget also continues a freeze in payments to county probation departments, courts, alternative dispute settlement programs and matching funds to help pay for grand juries.

It also calls for counties to continue to pay for 100 percent of the cost for mental health care for defendants at the state hospital and 50 percent of the cost for treatment for sex offenders.

"We've made provisions for pretty much anything the state could throw at us," Timko said.

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