Jobs and the role of county governments in the economic recovery will be the focus March 3-7 as more than 2,000 elected and appointed county officials gather for the National Association of Counties’ (NACo) 2012 Legislative Conference. Participants at the five-day Washington conference will meet with national leaders and deliver the message that despite hopeful economic signs, “counties are continuing to struggle with their revenues and budgets,” according to a news release.

“Counties are feeling the effects of cuts in federal assistance,” said NACo president Lenny Eliason, commissioner in Athens County, Ohio. “Combined with reduced state funding and lower local revenue, these cuts are forcing counties to reduce staff and struggle to fund essential social safety net programs, health care and public safety services, and maintain our aging transportation and infrastructure systems. “

Eliason said county officials will stress to members of Congress and the Obama administration to “protect vital county programs” and “promote job creation.” The county officials’ agenda is structured around NACo’s 2012 Key Legislative Priorities.

Those priorities include support for a balanced approach to deficit reduction, maintaining funding for Medicaid and opposing “measures that will shift Medicaid and social service cost to counties,” reauthorizing the Farm Bill as well as aviation and surface transportation programs, continued funding for rural schools and community development, and opposing unfunded mandates and preemptions.

Conference participants will hear from government leaders, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.; Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., ranking Republican on the Senate health, education, labor and pensions committee; Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood; Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack; and Ambassador Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative.