Counties offer suggestions for state-mandate relief

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The state Association of Counties released a report today with recommendations for how Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature can cut mandate costs on local governments.

Local officials have said that state unfunded mandates — programs or regulations required by state law that require local funds — are causing fiscal stress for most municipalities and could even to lead to financial insolvency for some. The 2 percent property-tax cap, which limits revenue that governments can raise through taxes, has confounded the problem, officials have said.

“Unless and until the State relieves some of these mandates, our counties will continue to face structural deficits,” said Stephen Acquario, the association’s executive director, in a statement. “Counties are doing their part to lower the costs they can control, but they have no ability to reduce the costs handed down by Albany.”

According to the report, counties are currently operating 40 state-mandated programs. Just nine of those programs’ local costs are projected to outpace property-tax revenues by $130 million in 2013, the report said.

The report included 51 recommendations for mandate relief, many of which also represent a savings to the state, according to a news release.

For example, authors suggest the state gradually take over all local costs associated with Medicaid. They suggest the state generate new revenue for this purpose by enacting the recommendations of Cuomo’s Medicaid Redesign Team and by utilizing savings that will follow full implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act.

To provide relief for pre-school special education mandates, counties suggest allowing local leaders more say in the placement and transportation of each child. The report also suggests creating a financial incentive program, where if counties or school districts spend below a target set by the state, they can be rewarded with a share of the savings.

Read the full report here: Mandate Proposal Report

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