Local government a partner, Hokama tells key leadership

Maui County Council Member Riki Hokama spoke with dozens of key U.S. House and Senate committee members as well as met other national leaders to address county issues during the National Association of Counties’ 2013 Legislative Conference held the first week of March in Washington, D.C.

“My message to Washington was to view local government as a partner and not as a ‘special interest.’ We all serve the same constituents. Don’t make it more difficult for county government to provide for our communities – work with us,” said Hokama, the association’s second vice president, in a news release reporting his trip to the nation’s capital.

For example, Hokama said there are federal proposals to tax municipal bonds for new projects, such as roads, wastewater treatment facilities and water system improvements. But this would hurt the county’s ability to finance infrastructure projects because borrowing costs would increase, he added.

“Simply put, Washington must work with local government and not simply shift the burden of cost down to local governments and our taxpayers,” he said.

Also discussed was a federal policy that allows counties to collect a share on Internet tax revenues. Hokama said the implementation and collection of the revenues are not uniform at the state level, so counties are not receiving their fair share.

During the conference, members and federal officials addressed issues including: replacing the sequestration – or across-the-board federal budget cuts – and protecting the federal-state-local partnership for Medicaid.

Hokama met with officials including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

More than 1,500 county officials from across the country gathered in the nation’s capital from March 2 to 6.

The National Association of Counties is the only national organization that represents county governments in the U.S.