By Todd Devlin
In July of this year, I attended the National Association of Counties (NACo) Annual Conference in Reno, Nevada. It is amazing the tremendous change in membership mentality and position in just one short year.
NACo finally put into platform that they supported the word “navigable” being part of any new water bill and oppose any attempt to take it out of any national water bill legislation.
NACo also supported a resolution coming from Montana on Cap and Trade. John Prinkki from Carbon County proposed a resolution opposing any legislation of Cap and Trade that had impacts to county residents. This basically states that their is no revenue source for Cap and Trade because it can not come at the expense of taxpayers or consumers and in turn, makes it impossible to fund. There was an attempt to segregate and table at the main body, but that attempt failed.
One issue that was not fully addressed by NACo was the “wild horses and burros”. This seems far from affecting Prairie County, but with huge increases in the “wild horse” population it would not surprise me to see a proposal to introduce “wild horses” into Prairie County.
The National Healthcare issue seems to be strongly supported by NACo. The new Healthcare will probably be a significant cost to our local taxpayers. The concern is not the additional cost, but that those additional costs are not of our choice and are federal mandates.
And finally my specialty: PILT. There was finally a platform change. The old platform stated just to support full funding of the current PILT program. The proposed amendment was to support funding at the current level with modifications to make it more equitable. I was very uncomfortable with the platform change due to the very generic word “equitable”. I have learned through the years that if you can find current federal law that supports your position, to use that wording. Policy #13 of the Federal Land Policy Management Act of 1976 states that PILT payments to local governments should be “both equitable to the Federal and local taxpayer”. Knowing this, I made a motion to amend the proposed amendment that would change the platform to: “modify the program to make payments to counties on a basis equitable to both the Federal and local taxpayer that are non-discriminatory in nature.” Washington state made motion to table my proposed amendment to the amendment. Only four out of a possible 50 favored a table. It passed the main body of the Public Lands Steering Committee unanimous and passed the main body of NACo unanimous. So now we have a concrete platform to support our PILT dilemma.
NACo steering committees are set up so that each member gets one vote. Population does not dictate what your vote is worth and all votes are worth the same. You can be members of NACo and stay home. But, if you stay home you have no vote. Prairie County taxpayers pay my way to go and represent our county with the mentality that resolutions and platform must be fair and feasible to all.
For years very rural counties were ignored by NACo because we did not participate. I see more and more very rural counties now participating in NACo and it is making a difference. Whether or not the “opportunity cost” is a benefit to Prairie County is your choice.
Published Aug. 11, 2010