Roberts joined 13 other elected officials representing 11 counties from nine states – Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Texas – in the National Association of Counties’ (NACo) Large Urban County Caucus (LUCC) “fly-in” advocacy effort held recently in Washington, D.C. LUCC is a bipartisan coalition of elected and appointed county officials from across the nation representing about 130 million people.
Roberts also spent an afternoon at the White House, where she and fellow officials met with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden; Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; Lisa Jackson, Environmental Protection Agency administrator; Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services; Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation; and Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security. NACo officials noted that it was the first time county officials had been invited to meet with the President and Vice President since Lyndon Johnson was in office.
“The cabinet secretaries took a substantial amount of time listening to our questions and concerns,” said Roberts. “It’s essential that our federal representatives hear directly from county officials about the challenges we’re facing back home, and how the decisions they make in Washington, D.C. affect us.”
The advocacy effort was led by LUCC Chair Ilene Lieberman, commissioner, Broward County, FL. The featured event was a rally on Capitol Hill in support of preserving Medicaid from becoming a block grant program for the states.
“NACo opposes Medicaid cuts or changing it into a block grant for the states,” Lieberman said. “NACo also opposes capping entitlement programs. These proposals would simply shift Medicaid’s costs to counties.”
Senators supporting NACo’s call to preserve Medicaid included Sen. Jay Rockefeller (WV); Sen. Jeff Bingaman (NM); Sen. Ron Wyden (OR); Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR); Sen. Al Franken (MN); Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT); and Sen. Bernard Sanders (VT). All seven senators attended the LUCC rally and spoke at the event.
Federal funding priorities for counties include Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, HOME Investment Partnerships Program, Community Services Block Grant program; Workforce Investment Act, Medicaid, and local justice/public safety programs. Other legislative priorities include repeal of the three percent withholding tax on county purchases, reauthorization of the surface transportation bill, and opposition to online travel companies (OTCs) efforts to legitimize their currently illegal and unethical business practice of withholding tax receipts from cities, counties and states collected from consumers when hotel rooms are booked through OTCs.
Roberts said local governments across the country are continuing to struggle with declining revenues and increasing demands for services.
“The cuts that Congress is considering in programs such as CDBG and the various justice and public safety programs are unacceptable,” she added. “Congress needs to hear this directly from county officials.”
More information on NACo and LUCC priority issues is available at www.naco.org