At Panel Discussion, Relief is Spelled “M-A-N-D-A-T-E”

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State budget director Robert Megna defended the Cuomo administration’s efforts to limit unfunded mandates on local governments, saying they have capped Medicaid costs and reformed the pension system.

But it wasn’t enough for local leaders and the state’s School Boards Association.

During a two-hour panel discussion today, local government officials said the state’s efforts have been helpful, but more is needed.

“What we are seeing right now is governing by triage,” said Stephen Acquario, executive director for the state Association of Counties.

Acquario said that the state’s property-tax cap next year will limit counties to $114 million in new revenue. Their expenses are set to grow by $244 million, he said.

Megna said Gov. Andrew Cuomo this year agreed to have the state cap counties’ Medicaid costs at 3 percent a year; Medicaid is the largest state mandate of county budgets. Within five years, the state will take over all Medicaid costs from the counties, a total savings of $1.2 billion.

The state also implemented a new pension tier, Tier VI, that is estimated to save the state more than $80 billion over the next 30 years.

“We believe significant mandate relief, in taking over those costs, will over time provide a substantial local benefit,” Megna said.

Timothy Kremer, executive director of the state School Boards Association, said the state needs to reform the Triborough Amendment, the oft-critized law that allows union contracts to continue even after they expire.

He added that New York has more than 200 mandates on services for students in special-education programs.

Sen. Betty Little, R-Glen Falls, who was on the panel today, said a mandate relief panel formed by the Cuomo administration will hopefully find more ways to curb unfunded mandates.

“We have the tax cap, and the tax cap is bringing mandate relief to the fore,” she said.

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  1. Repeal of Triborough will give all the negotiating power back to the employer. If public workers can’t strike without paying two times their salary in penalties, the employer can just leave them at the table as long as they want. Wouldn’t it be fairer for both sides to have regional or state level contracts, enforced by mandatory arbitration?

    And, at a higher level, this push to depress public worker salaries and benefits is not building the upstate economy, it is hurting it.

  2. Gov Cuomo is claiming more credit than he has so far earned. Imagine a fireman who arrives at a burning house and then, instead of hosing down the burning house, he hoses down the house next door which isn’t burning yet so the fire won’t spread. Sure, the house next door is saved, but the burning house burns to the ground. Yes, he did very well with the tax cap. But the pension and medicaid legislation save money in the future, not now. And future legislatures could repeal those laws. Gov Cuomo hasn’t helped property taxpayers, school boards, town boards, or county legislators NOW in a meaningful way. NYS is still burning. Town and school district budgets are burning, because neither the Governor nor the Legislature will cut the state spending the same way they force schools, towns, and counties to cut local spending. Taxpayer’s budgets are burning, because more of their money goes for NYS spending instead of their family’s needs. The Governor and the Legislature, like a school yard bully who takes lunch money from other kids, just keeps taking a larger and larger portion of the property taxes collected each year in towns, school districts, and counties. Taxpayers, if you want to know why your property taxes keep going up, it’s because the Governor and the Legislature keep taking more property tax money. If you want to know why your schools are laying off teachers and cutting sports, music, the arts, and your towns are laying off the employees who provide the services you want, it’s because the Governor and the Legislature refuse to limit the spending that they insert into school town county budgets instead of the state budget. Notice – when the Governor and Legislature claim they’ve cut their spending, they only refer to their state budget spending. Meanwhile, they don’t mention their spending contained in county, school, and town budgets, which is increasing uncontrollably. If Governor Cuomo really wants to solve the problem, he needs to hose down the burning house, not the neighbor’s house. He needs to stop the state spending hidden in local budgets now, instead of pretending that future spending cuts which might be repealed are the same thing as actual spending cuts today. He needs to stop pretending that nibbling around the edges of the problem is the same thing as solving the problem. It’s not. And his pretense amounts to a let-them-eat-cake attitude toward the property taxpayers, county legislatures, school boards, and town boards, who must pay the ruinous cost of excessive spending by the NYS Legislature and the Governor. Will the real Gov Cuomo please stand up? Is he the real mandate reformer he claimed to be early in his administration? Or is he the Mandate Relief Pretender he now seems to be? If he wants an example to follow, he should copy Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who restrains the total county tax bill, even as state spending takes a bigger share of the total tax pie.

  3. Forget mandate relief. Just git rid of all the mandates the state doesn’t want to pay for through the income tax.
    And while I’m in the mood, let’s eliminate all health insurance and all retirement plans for elected and appointed officials. We pay them enough for them to buy their own. Maybe then they will work hard to preserve and enhance SS and vote for nation health care paid through the income tax.