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Kniss urges Congress to preserve Medicaid, support federal funding priorities for counties


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representing the nation’s largest metropolitan counties, Santa Clara County Supervisor Liz Kniss recently urged U.S. Senators and members of the House of Representatives to fully support federal funding and legislative priorities affecting urban counties and communities.

Thirteen elected county officials representing 11 counties from nine states – Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Texas – participated in the National Association of Counties’ (NACo) Large Urban County Caucus (LUCC) “fly-in” advocacy effort held May 3-5 in Washington, D.C. LUCC is a bipartisan coalition of elected and appointed county officials from across the nation representing about 130 million people.

The week’s featured event was the Rally on Capitol Hill in support of preserving Medicaid from becoming a block grant program for the states. “Cuts to Medicaid, known as Medi-Cal in California, or changing it into a block grant would simply shift costs to counties,” said Kniss.

Senators supporting the call to preserve Medicaid included Sen. Ray Rockefeller (W. Va.), Sen. Jeff Bingaman (N.M), Sen. Ron Wyden (Org.), Sen. Jeff Merkley (Ore.); Sen. Al Franken (Min.); Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Sen. Bernard Sanders (Vt.). All seven senators attend the LUCC rally and spoke at the event.

Said Sen. Rockefeller: “Medicaid is part of the fabric of our nation – and the people covered by Medicaid matter, ill-conceived proposals to turn Medicaid into a block grant program would turn our backs on our most vulnerable populations, like families, seniors, the disabled, and public hospitals and clinics. Their needs don’t go away with spending cuts -- reducing the federal commitment to Medicaid just burdens the states who pick up the slack. We need to find smart ways to reduce the federal deficit and lower government spending without burdening ordinary families and local governments.”

County Caucus members were also concerned about proposed cuts in other funding priority areas. The message, said Kniss, is that “despite some positive signs of economic growth, people are still hurting.” Local governments across the country are continuing to struggle with declining revenues and increasing demands for services.

“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,” said Kniss. “The cuts that Congress is considering in programs such as CDBG and the various justice and public safety programs are unacceptable. Congress needs to hear this directly from county officials.”

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.

The fly-in effort also included White House briefings with key administration officials. On Thursday, Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) visited NACo headquarters and addressed the LUCC members. The Congressman chairs the Congressional Urban Caucus.

He acknowledged the need to balance the federal budget, but said it should not come at the expense of programs that keep America’s urban communities strong—such as education, energy programs and community revitalization.

“We’d be cutting off our nose to spite our face,” he said. “We can’t be the world’s leading superpower on the cheap.”

Media Contact: Gwendolyn Mitchell/Laurel Anderson, Office of Public Affairs, (408) 299-5119; Pattie DeMellopine, Chief of Staff Supervisor Liz Kniss (408) 299-5050
Posted: May 5, 2011