Eleven Republican county executives today raised their ongoing concerns about the need for more mandate relief.
Cuomo has defended his mandate-relief efforts, saying he has implemented a new pension tier and taking over Medicaid costs from the counties. He’s also proposing a pension-smoothing plan this year to help with retirement costs.
Here’s the statement from the executives, including Westchester’s Robert Astorino and Chautauqua’s Gregory Edwards—both considered potential gubernatorial candidates against Cuomo in 2014.
New York’s local taxes, already 80% higher than the national average, are a direct byproduct of the unfunded mandates imposed on local governments by Albany.
Rensselaer County, for example, saw its unfunded mandate obligation rise by $2.9 million last year. Under the 2% property tax cap, the county was only able to raise $1.2 million to pay that bill.
By 2020, the statewide gap between county revenues and expenses is expected to reach $4.2 billion.
The State has forced counties into the unenviable position of determining which local services to cut, and by how much. Orange County Executive Ed Diana has called this “governing by triage.”
In Dutchess County, 72% of net county costs are devoted to unfunded mandates. The remaining 28% is earmarked for “discretionary spending,” including such crucial government functions as the Sherriff’s Department, public transportation, road repair, snow removal and the 911 call center.
In Westchester County, state mandates eat up 85% of the property tax levy, leaving just 15 cents on the dollar to pay for every other service.
At the end of last year, the New York State Association of Counties released a revised comprehensive roadmap to mandate relief. The report organized the scores of mandate relief ideas put forth by member counties into rational, actionable proposals in 14 policy areas, including Medicaid, child welfare, public assistance, corrections and pensions.
Medicaid is our most burdensome mandate: in Rockland County, where unfunded mandates consume 95% of the overall property tax levy, the increase in Medicaid obligations alone last year surpassed the revenues that would have been raised from a 2% property tax increase.
Putnam County taxpayers spend nearly $10 million on Medicaid to support just 5% of the population. The same 5% receives over $90 million in Medicaid spending when the state contribution is factored in. In total, 74% of Putnam County’s $139 million budget addresses unfunded mandates.
The federal government recently released a report outlining the tens of billions of dollars in wasted Medicaid spending in New York. But the state is now planning to add an additional half million recipients to Medicaid, a 10% increase in participation.
Last session, Republican Senator Pat Gallivan and others, including Democratic Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, proposed a plan to structurally reform the cost of Medicaid by incrementally transferring full responsibility for funding to the state, where policy is made.
The plan did not become law, and should be revisited this session.
Senator Joseph Griffo, a former Mayor and County Executive, has introduced a bill that would require any future mandates on local government to be accompanied by sufficient funding.
This new funding regime would help establish a good faith partnership between local and state governments to lower costs for counties and property taxes for citizens.
The solutions are there. Let’s make 2013 the year Albany acts to relieve the unfunded mandate burden on local government to pave the way for the property tax relief that New Yorkers so desperately deserve.
Broome County Executive
Gregory J. Edwards
Chautauqua County Executive
Chemung County Executive
Marcus J. Molinaro
Dutchess County Executive
Monroe County Executive
Anthony J. Picente, Jr.
Oneida County Executive
Edward A. Diana
Orange County Executive
Mary Ellen Odell
Putnam County Executive
Rensselaer County Executive
C. Scott Vanderhoef
Rockland County Executive
Robert P. Astorino
Westchester County Executive