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Report: Smaller counties feel bigger impact from federal spending

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Report: Smaller counties feel bigger impact from federal spending

  • Brittny Goodsell/Cronkite News Service

The federal government pumped $2 billion into Pinal County in salaries, purchases, pensions and grants to the county government, among other spending in 2010.

That translates to about $5,300 per person in the county, according to new data from the Census Bureau.

While that might seem like a lot of money, it was well below the state average of $10,000 per person and it paled next to the $23,000 per person that the federal government sent to Apache and Cochise counties for the year, the report said.

Pima County received $14,000 per capita in 2010, mostly from retirement and disability payments, and procurement spending.

Officials said the fact that less-populous counties like Apache and Cochise are bringing in more federal dollars per capita could be due to a large federal presence or other funding-specific factors, like Medicare.

Marcia Howard, the executive director at the Federal Funds Information for States, said it could be that the proportion of residents on Medicare is greater in smaller counties than in more populous counties like Maricopa.

The largest portion of federal funding that Apache County received was in the form of government–to–government grants, which goes toward programs like health, roads and education.

Most of the federal dollars flowing to Cochise County, by contrast, came through spending on salaries or on procurement – the federal purchases of goods and services in the county.

Cochise topped all other counties in per capita federal spending on salaries: The spending averaged out to about $8,000 in wages per capita, well above the second-highest county, Santa Cruz, which averaged $2,200 per person.

Cochise County Finance Director Louise Klein attributed the disproportionately high federal purchases and salary payments in the county to the presence of the Fort Huachuca Army Base there.

She also warned that the numbers can be deceiving: While the county may appear to be getting just over $3 billion in federal funding, very little of that goes directly to the county government. Only $14 million in federal money is included in the county’s $200 million annual budget, she said.

Despite Maricopa County being the most populous county in the state, it ranks ninth out of the 15 counties with an average of $8,500 of federal money spent per person. Pinal, the third–most–populous county in Arizona, got the least federal funding per capita, according to the Census.

The Census Bureau’s Consolidated Federal Funds Report measures all federal expenditures for the year. Those include direct payments to Arizona residents for retirement, disability and unemployment, as well as payments for government salaries, programs and infrastructure, for example.

The report covers all 50 states federal funding and all counties in the country.

The federal government pumped about $64 billion in to the Arizona economy in 2010, the report said, a rate of just over $10,000 per capita.

Tallying the federal tab

Total federal money spent in Arizona's counties on a per capita basis in 2010:

  • Cochise: $23,531.74
  • Apache: $23,435.25
  • Pima: $14,535.48
  • Santa Cruz: $12,715.75
  • Navajo: $11,921.76
  • Gila: $11,863.71
  • Coconino: $10,098.20
  • Statewide: $10,079.26
  • Yuma: $8,999.45
  • Graham: $8,586.65
  • Maricopa: $8,258.19
  • La Paz: $7,697.59
  • Yavapai: $7,696.61
  • Mohave: $7,367.13
  • Greenlee: $6,638.26
  • Pinal: $5,348.38

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